“I can’t take it anymore!” Sarah screamed at her husband, John. “I’m overwhelmed.” Sarah, a working mom was burning her candle at both ends, and everything John tried to do to help wasn’t helping. She wasn’t sleeping well; she was snapping at the kids and John more often than she liked. Even her work was suffering. All the running, self-help books and TikTok videos were doing nothing to help. She began to wonder, “Do I need therapy?”
Do I need therapy?
Although 1 in 5 Americans are affected by a mental health condition, 5 in 5 Americans know what it’s like to experience stress, anxiety and other forms of emotional distress.
Some of the challenges we face in life will be greater than others. Sometimes we’ll be able to tackle them on our own or with the help of a supportive friend or loved one. Other times, we could benefit from the help of a trusted professional, like a behavioral health specialist.
“Many people think they don’t need therapy and have the help of their family and friends,” said Jerimya Fox, a licensed professional counselor and a doctor of behavioral health at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital in Scottsdale, AZ. “It’s good to have a support system, but you can’t always talk to them about everything—you may even have to be careful about what you say. This is when psychotherapy can help.”
What is psychotherapy?
While the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses have shifted in the right direction over the years, still many people are hesitant to admit they could benefit from therapy. “Who me? Oh, I don’t need therapy. I’m fine.”
Contrary to what some think, psychotherapy, more commonly known as talk therapy, isn’t just for those with mental health issues. It can be beneficial for anyone – of all ages – who is experiencing challenges, transitions or wants to make improvements in their life.
[Read Could I Benefit from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.]
“Therapy is a safe, non-judgmental place where you don’t have to edit any thoughts or emotions,” Dr. Fox said. “Therapists are there to let you vent, explore what you are going through and to help develop a mental toolbox to handle future challenges.”
Just like you’d visit your health care provider to ensure physical health, think of therapy as medicine for your mental health.
Signs you could benefit from therapy
Regardless of the reason for seeking therapy, there are some signs that it might be a good time to do so. Dr. Fox said it might be time to seek therapy if you have one or more issues causing you distress and interfering with your daily life.
If you’re experiencing any of the following, it may be time to seek help:
1. You’re easily overwhelmed
Are little things setting you off into a tailspin of emotions or mood swings—from irritability and anger to sadness? Do you snap at friends or cry at the drop of a hat? Are extreme emotions making it difficult to focus and handle daily functions?
Being emotionally overwhelmed can be caused by lots of things and can be difficult to navigate on your own. If it feels like it’s increasingly difficult to respond to and control your emotions, therapy may be able to help with both.
“Therapy can help with unregulated emotions, because you can take a step back and uncover the actual triggers of those emotions and how to combat that fear and panic that may be the root cause,” Dr. Fox said.
2. You’re consumed by your own anxious thoughts
Racing thoughts? Racing heart? Mental health conditions like anxiety may trigger anxious or negative (intrusive) thoughts and cause other physiological reactions.
Therapy can help you learn how to accept, challenge and manage those thoughts in a healthy way so they stop controlling you.
[Read Do I Have Anxiety, Depression or Both? Here’s How to Tell.]
3. You have relationship troubles
Marriage and relationships aren’t easy. There are many things that can cause issues or a strain on a relationship, such as having a new baby and money or job struggles.
If you’re unable to see eye-to-eye with someone, are in an unhealthy relationship, find yourself isolating or distancing yourself from your friend or partner, it may be time to talk to a behavioral health specialist about what is going on. In addition, couples therapy can help peacefully navigate differences and restore strong communication in your relationship.
“Therapy can assist with recovery, healing, reconnecting with individuals you may have a bad relationship or trauma with—creating healthy boundaries with them,” Dr. Fox said. “It can help you foster connections with other individuals whether that’s a spouse or parent. We can all use some assistance maneuvering and fostering connections. With therapy, you have a neutral party helping us to reach that connection and support.
[Read How Family Therapy Can Help.]
4. You aren’t eating or sleeping well
If you’re having trouble sleeping, sleeping too much, barely eating or eating too much to dull your emotions, it may be time to hit the alarm button and talk to your health care provider or a behavioral health specialist.
Therapy can help you overcome the underlying causes for your sleep and eating problems.
[Read Caring for Your Brain During Stressful Times.]
5. You’ve experienced a death or trauma
Therapy can be extremely helpful after a recent trauma, such as the death of a loved one, a miscarriage, an abusive relationship, and for past trauma, such as sexual or verbal abuse.
“Therapy can allow you to explore these painful experiences with someone who is experienced with these issues in a confidential, safe space,” Dr. Fox said. “They can help you appropriately process and work through trauma and grief.”
6. You’re abusing alcohol and drugs
If you’ve been drinking heavily, using drugs or participating in risky type behaviors, this could be your unhealthy attempt to cope with deeper issues. Therapy, along with addiction counseling, may help you better understand what you are trying to cover up and give you the tools to stop unhealthy behaviors.
“Substance abuse affects 20 million Americans and countless more who care for and love them,” Dr. Fox said. “Therapy gives coping and life skills to combat the pressures related to substance abuse. It focuses on treatment, motivates you to abstain and stay clean and is a focal point to move you to be successful.”
[Here’s How to Spot Addiction in Someone You Know.]
7. You need a mental tune-up
Just like a car needs a tune-up from time to time, you may need a therapy tune-up as well.
“Therapy can give you the tools to better interact and live your life, but it also teaches you when it might be time to go back and address certain things—or new things that pop up,” Dr. Fox said. “You are better after therapy, because you can identify certain patterns or recognize certain triggers and know, ‘Hey, maybe I’m due for a little check in.’”
8. You feel hopeless—just don’t care anymore
Do you feel hopeless more days than not? Hopelessness can include worries that you have no future, that you’ll never be happy, or you just don’t care what happens anymore. Sometimes hopelessness can be a sign of depression, a serious mood disorder that affects 1 in 6 adults at one point in their life.
Talking to a therapist may help you understand why and what steps to follow to improve your well-being.
9. Nothing else seems to work
Like Sarah, you’ve tried everything—talked to a friend, exercised more, watched self-help TikToks—but nothing seems to have made a difference. This may be a sign it’s time to talk to a behavioral health specialist who can help you figure out what is causing you to feel this way.
10. You’re living through a pandemic
So much has happened since March 2020 (and is still going!), that it’s natural to have a mixed bag of emotions. It’s been a lot for all of us.
“You don’t need to have a clinical diagnosis of a mental health disorder to have a reason to check in with a behavioral health specialist,” Dr. Fox said. “We’ve been through so much. It can help to just talk to someone other than a friend, co-worker or loved one. Someone who will let you vent and talk, without any judgment.”
And remember, you’re not alone
Know that, whether you yourself are having a hard time or someone you know, you’re not alone. There’s no time like the present to take the first step (or second step) in getting the support you or your loved one needs.
If you’re considering a therapist, make sure you read “Choosing the Right Therapist,” to help guide in the right direction.
To find a licensed behavioral health specialist near you, visit bannerhealth.com or call the Banner Appointment Line at 800-254-4357. I
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline): Call 988 if you or a loved one is contemplating suicide.