Maybe I should talk to someone… How do I know when it is time to see a therapist?

By: Collette Dawson-Loveless, LCSW

Have you ever had a family member or friend suggest you may need to “talk to someone”? This is really good feedback. When people we turn to for understanding and comfort or support are suggesting this, we probably need to at least go to a professional to get an evaluation. Perhaps there is some small disturbance in our lives that needs to be addressed and will be relatively simple to manage given a few tools. Alternately, we may find that trauma from the past is intruding on our present life and causing havoc. In that case, a more in depth, and complex treatment plan will be required.

If you suffer a fall and notice swelling in your arm and it is unusable for a day or more, do you continue to wait it out and watch for healing? Or, do you go to a doctor for an evaluation? The mental and emotional aspects of our lives deserve at least the same attention we give to our physical body. The physical is sometimes easier to attend to because of the pain we experience and because there is no negative stigma attached to visiting the doctor. Also, we know the physical signs to watch out for and have been educated on when to seek a doctor’s opinion.

Outlined below are some questions to consider when you are wondering whether or not professional mental help is needed.

Is something in your life causing enough distress or disturbance to one or more areas of your life; Home, Family, Friends or Work, to disrupt your sense of safety or belonging?

Have the coping skills you have used in the past to manage distress stopped working?

Are people close to you suggesting you go see someone?

Are you turning to social media, drugs, alcohol, food or anything other than another person to feel comfort, relaxation, acceptance and/or safe?

Are your relationships with significant others strained?

Do you feel overwhelmed with stress, or sadness?

Do you feel cutoff from your feelings or numb?

Do you feel fatigue without any physical explanation?

Are former friends or family members avoiding contact?

Do your emotional reactions feel too big (intense) for the circumstance?

Do anxious or negative thoughts or memories of past trauma preoccupy your mind or take up a lot of your energy?

Are you withdrawing from others or no longer engaging in activities that used to be pleasurable?

Do you have somatic complaints (headaches, stomach aches, frequent illness, sleep disturbance and etc.) not resolved by seeing your medical doctor?

If you answered yes to one or more questions above, you may benefit from a mental health check-up. Just like a swollen, painful arm, high fever or unrelenting cough should be checked out by a medical doctor; mental or emotional pain can be examined and diagnosed by a mental health therapist. So, treat yourself as you would your best friend and take care of all of you. Your whole self deserves care, love and respect.