One of the most frustrating things for people living with chronic mental illness is hearing people say something like, “We all feel a bit down sometimes,” or “I get nervous about things too.” There is a difference, of course, between ordinary day to day struggles and real mental health problems, but to be fair, if you’ve never been diagnosed with the latter, it can be hard to know where the line is. It’s not unusual for people to underestimate how serious their problems are. If you’re wondering whether it’s time to seek professional therapy or counseling, this article can help you to identify the warning signs.
You’re struggling with day to day life
It’s one thing to feel a bit sad, another when you struggle to get out of bed as a result. When you feel so panicky that it’s hard to pick up the phone or leave the house, you’re in real trouble. One way to work out how much your life is being affected is to keep a diary over a few days, noting the times when you find it challenging to engage in ordinary activities because of how you’re feeling. Try to take account of all the little workarounds you may already have developed, such as getting family members to handle specific tasks on your behalf. Think about things you’d like to do that are simple for other people but feel impossible for you.
You’re harming yourself or others
There are many different forms of self-harm. Some people cut themselves. Others drink too much. Some simply bully themselves internally so that they feel worse and worse. Sometimes the problem is more subtle: for instance, you might neglect yourself and not eat enough or fail to take necessary medication. Many people harm those around them, not in obvious ways like hitting them, but by doing things like verbally sniping at them or repeatedly breaking promises. You might have got into a habit of blaming your mistakes on other people at work or shouting at your kids. If this isn’t the person you want to be, therapy can help you to change your behavior.
A low-level problem just isn’t getting better
Sometimes mental illness doesn’t involve anything very dramatic but becomes apparent because more minor symptoms just don’t go away. Perhaps you just don’t feel like yourself, or you can’t remember when you last found any pleasure in life. You might have been bereaved six months ago and still not feel able to get on with your life, or you might find yourself frequently wondering what the point of it all is. You deserve more out of life than to keep on struggling like this, and if you get the right help, you may well be able to improve your situation. Even if you can’t see a practical way out, that may be because your mind isn’t working correctly, so it’s always worth getting a professional opinion.
Talking to friends doesn’t help
When we’re struggling, most of us turn first to friends or family, but sometimes it’s difficult for them to understand what’s going on. There might be things that you don’t feel able to tell them precisely because you’re so close, and listening to you might harm their mental health. For these reasons and more, professional therapists usually have a firm rule about not treating their family members or friends. Talking to a professional means your needs can come first, plus you’ll have the benefit of experience and skill. If you can’t access a good therapist locally, virtual therapy can be very beneficial, and the Betterhelp cost is lower than you might expect.
You want to take control of your life
Getting counseling isn’t just about tackling your immediate problems – it also allows you to develop skills that give you more control over your life going forward. You can use these in positive ways to push your boundaries and pursue your ambitions more effectively. If you don’t feel that you’re in control of your emotions, or if life takes you in unintended directions when you’d rather be doing something else, counseling can help you to get a grip, potentially heading off mental health problems in the future.
Therapy and counseling don’t always work for everybody straight away. You may need to look around and find the right person or the right technique. If it’s not working, don’t be shy about asking an existing therapist to recommend somebody else. The critical thing is to know when you need help so you can seek it straight away, and the above pointers should help you to do so.