7 Signs You Might Need Therapy

By: Amy Marschall, PsyD

“The biggest lie my depression told me was that I wasn’t depressed.” – Unknown

It’s hard to know when you need to ask for help, especially around mental health. One of your brain’s jobs is to tell you when something is not right in your body, but because mental health issues impact your brain, we do not always get the right signal about our mental health. In addition, stigma around mental health and therapy make it difficult for many to acknowledge when they might need support.

The Center for Disease Control reports that more than half of Americans experience a mental health issue at some point in their life, with one in five meeting criteria for a diagnosis in a given year and one in 25 experiencing a “serious mental illness,” or a mental health issue that causes severe functional impairment, possibly requiring hospitalization or preventing the individual from working or otherwise participating in society.

In other words, if you are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone. You are not “weird” or “abnormal,” and your difficulties do not reflect on your worth as a person. It is okay to seek and receive support.

Between letting go of stigma around seeking mental health services and the difficulty that comes with identifying that you might need help, it can be hard to know when to reach out to a therapist. Although there is no minimum threshold required in order to “earn” or “deserve” help, here are some red flags that may indicate that you could benefit from therapy.

You Notice a Change in Mood or Energy

Any significant change in mood can be an indication of a mental health issue. If you feel sad or down more often than usual or struggle to bounce back or pull yourself out of that headspace, that could be a sign that you need mental health support. At the same time, if you find that your energy levels are unusually high, you have difficulty slowing down, or you are continuously on the go, this can be another sign of a mental health issue.

Big shifts in mood or energy can also be caused by medical issues, like hormone fluctuations or thyroid problems. In addition to seeking mental health support, talk to your primary care physician to rule out a medical cause for any changes in your energy level.

Your Sleep Habits Have Changed Drastically

Sleep is vital to both mental and physical health. Quality, restful sleep can help you feel better mentally and physically, and a change in sleep quality can be a signal that something is off. If you suddenly need much more or much less sleep than usual, if you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, or if you wake up exhausted regardless of how much sleep you got, this can be a signal that your mental health is suffering.

Your Appetite Has Changed Significantly

If you are suddenly eating much more or much less than usual, or if your weight fluctuates unintentionally, call your primary care physician right away, as this can be a sign of serious medical issues. It can also indicate a mental health issue.

If you are struggling with appetite and eating, remember that “fed is best” is not just for infants. It is okay to eat “childish” foods or eat the same meal over and over if that helps you get the nutrients and calories your body needs to thrive.

There Has Been a Big Change in Your Life

Research from Dartmouth indicates that getting married is the seventh most stressful life event even though it is considered the “happiest day” of many people’s lives. Even positive change is stressful and can wear you down. Whether you consider the change positive, negative, or neutral, therapy might help you adjust to or manage stress.

Remember that there is no minimum for someone to deserve support, so if you are experiencing stress from a life change, it is okay to get help, even if that stressor is positive. You also do not have to wait until you are really struggling to ask for help. If you are aware that a big change might have an affect on your mental health, you can preemptively seek therapy and support.

You No Longer Enjoy Things You Used to Like

Anhedonia refers to when an individual is unable to experience pleasure or positive emotions. It can manifest as numbness or significantly reduced enjoyment. If the things you used to enjoy no longer bring you pleasure, and if you feel like nothing brings up positive emotions, that is a sign that you might need mental health support.

You’re Withdrawing from Loved Ones

Just like depression and other mental health issues can trick your brain into thinking you are being “lazy” or “not trying hard enough,” poor mental health can make you think that you are a burden or that your friends and family do not want to be around you. This can cause you to withdraw and stop spending time with them. Similarly, low energy caused by mental health issues can make it seem too difficult to reach out and connect with your loved ones.

This can cause a vicious cycle: isolation negatively affects mental health, and poor mental health can cause social withdrawal and more isolation. It is challenging to break this cycle, but a professional can treat your symptoms and make it easier to move forward.

You’re Having Dangerous Thoughts

If you are thinking about hurting yourself or someone else, it is essential to seek help immediately for your safety. You can call 988 for mental health support or go to your nearest emergency room. For local mental health crisis resources, see this website for adults and this website for children and teens.

Some people have thoughts of self-harm or suicide but do not want to act on these thoughts. If you are physically safe, you can still get help and support for the thoughts and any underlying cause contributing to them. It can be unpleasant to feel this way even if you do not want to hurt yourself.
If you are ready to reach out to a therapist, see our tips for connecting with a provider and our suggestions for finding affordable care.

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