You lose a loved one, a job, a relationship, a pet or get into an accident, have an injury, gain weight, have a baby, return from war or experience something else that just rattles you to your core. You know something isn’t right, you feel a bit off, but continue living your life thinking you’ll get over it. We all have been there and often with time we do get over it, sort of. These life scars helps us to grow and while that is great in theory, the pain that comes with growth can take a toll on us. Our mental health is directly connected to our physical health. When we see illness we know it’s a clue our mental outlook is out of whack.
Do you need a therapist?
How can you tell?
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services offers 5 signs that you could benefit from therapy.
- Risky behavior to self-soothe.You might medicate with sex, drugs or alcohol or other risky behaviors. Anytime you are escaping a problem with alcohol or drugs that’s a red flag that your coping mechanisms are off. You’re desperate for an escape and sex, drugs and alcohol seems to be a fast fix. A therapist can help you by providing tools to help you cope and pivot to more positive hopeful, better feeling self soothing thoughts.
- You’re sleeping too much or not at all.People who are grieving or sink into a depression either can’t get out of bed or seek to pack their days with distractions and work. These are the people who start cleaning out their closets and scrubbing bathrooms at 3am. Again how we cope is what we should pay attention to. A therapist can help you understand the thoughts that keep you awake and make sense of them. They can help you to understand how you choose to soothe yourself and offer healthier ways of coping.
- Your mental self-talk is terrible and you lose time in rumination. When our mind wanders and it’s to disparaging, self-loathing mental noise it’s damaging and self sabotaging. You can drift off while at a red light and realize you would have stayed there for 20 minutes if someone didn’t beep at you. Negative self-talk can manifest itself in serious illness if not addressed. When you find yourself in your own head too much and blocks of time go by wrapped up in thought, it’s time to consider therapy. A therapist can listen to how you typically talk to yourself about yourself or your perception of a specific problem and offer tools to end that cycle of self-defeating mental focus.
- You have physical manifestations that tie to grief, depression, anxiety, worry etc.When you physically feel ill or may be sweaty, faint, jittery, when a certain situation or topic comes up that’s a sign you should talk to a therapist. A therapist can screen you to see if you perhaps need medication temporarily to address a chemical imbalance that is resulting in physical reactions and sensations. It’s important to share these physical occurrences with the therapist. A good therapist will ask pointed questions as part of an on-boarding process.
- You’re neglecting responsibilities and people.When you’re caught up in your own hard time you may forget to let the cat inside, participate on an important conference call, or pick the kids up at a different location. You are unable to focus and seem forgetful. This wandering mind that could put you and those close to you in danger. A therapist can help you to redirect your focus and attention when your mind wanders down a rabbit hole of limiting beliefs.
Why do so many people feel embarrassed to admit they might need a therapist?
Dr. Hafeez explains that we live in a culture that stigmatizes the need for therapy and self care. It’s presumed as weak or crazy. Seeking therapy, in actuality, is a self-loving, self-caring action to take. “If you cut yourself with a knife while cooking and needed to get stitches no one would criticize you for dropping everything to get to the emergency room. If you went through a loss or some other event that triggered negative thoughts and a depressive spell, people want you to just get over it and get on with life. They can’t see any blood or pain, so to them it’s all in your head and can be easily sorted out,” she explains.
Is therapy more common than most of us imagine?
According to Dr. Hafeez, we see more and more people interested in self-improvement and true desire for feeling good. People don’t tolerate feeling badly for long. Just look at social media, people are posting positive quotes, life hack websites and articles like these intended to make people better themselves.
“As the world appears to get more out of control more people choose to go inward and listen to their inner guidance. Some people are so disconnected with their true inner beings that they need the help of a therapist to assist them with reconnecting.” She adds that not everyone who sees a therapist needs to be put on antidepressants, which many people are apprehensive about. “Many people just need new perspectives and coping mechanisms to help them shift into a healthier mindset. A good psychologist or psychiatrist must do their due diligence in thorough interviewing and assessment so that proper treatment in therapy and even medication can be properly tailored.”