This piece was first published on Medium.
Stress, mood swings, anxiety or any other emotional distress is inevitable. Whether it’s a break-up, professional setback, death of a closed one or anxiety — it can feel like everything’s come to a standstill.
Sometimes, one can bounce back from these on their own. It takes time and effort but we do. However, sometimes one might need a helping hand to pull them through it all.
So how do you identify the negative patterns and signs of emotional distress? And how do you decide that it’s time to seek help and support from a trusted mental health professional? MSc. Health Psychologist & Habit Expert, Pooja Naik, discusses 8 signs of knowing if you need therapy or not.
8 Signs You Might Need Therapy
1. You’re finding it difficult to regulate your emotions
You’re not quite sure if it’s the gut-wrenching Instagram story you watched, the adorable commercial on television or the fact that someone you hardly know did not greet you the way you would have liked them to.
If you become tearful without any apparent reason, you may be emotionally drained and talking it out with a therapist can help process whatever you’re going through. This stands true for other emotions as well – unexplained anger, irritability, jealousy, guilt, fear, etc.
2. You’re talking yourself and/or others down
“I’m not smart enough to do this”, “How did he get a promotion? He didn’t even do a good job”. Do you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself or others? It’s like being stuck in a loop where you find it hard to break the pattern of negative thinking.
Emotional distress can often cause us to talk ourselves or others down. Therapy can help you break out of these self-deprecating thoughts and also help you learn how to appreciate and respect others.
3. Your body seems to have taken a hit
Chronic stress can manifest itself in the form of physical ailments such as digestive problems, headaches, weaker immunity, exhaustion, inflammation, joint pain, low libido, amongst others.
So if you have been experiencing these symptoms in your body since a while and you notice that they’re taking a toll on your body, it’s a sign to slow down and address these symptoms and emotions.
4. You no longer love your activities and hobbies
Lack of interest or feeling disconnected with things that you previously enjoyed are again a sign of emotional distress. Did you love reading books before but now find it tiresome? Was meeting your best friend always a solace and stress-buster for you but now you don’t want to step out of your house?
When emotional issues start taking over your mind, you don’t see a reason to engage in your previously loved hobbies and activities to a point where you feel a general sense of unhappiness.
5. You’re struggling to maintain your relationships
Have you been pulling back from your close relationships? Avoiding socializing with colleagues? Feeling insecure in your relationships? Emotional distress can have a huge negative impact on your relationships with friends, family, partner and peers.
You find it hard to communicate with others. So much so that your friends/partner have expressed their concerns about your lack of interest or low mood when you’re with them.
6. Your performance at work/college/school is impacted
There are evident changes in your work performance because you find it difficult to concentrate or stay present. You don’t feel motivated, and you may have received negative feedback about the quality of your work.
This is because emotional distress can negatively impact your concentration, memory, attention to detail etc. If that’s the case, a therapist can help you learn better problem solving and stress-management strategies.
7. You’re turning to substance use to cope
Finding yourself dictated by your impulses is common when undergoing emotional distress. For eg. drinking excessively, overeating or using drugs.
If you find yourself turning to substance use to cope, talking it out with an expert professional is crucial. They can help you identify triggers, build better coping mechanisms and regain clarity.
8. You tried helping yourself but nothing seems to work
If you have identified negative patterns and behaviors, there’s a chance you might have tried to work on them yourself. You’ve tried talking to a friend, joined support groups and read a couple of self-help books. But nothing seems to help.
It may be time for you to speak to seek the help of a trusted health professional who can help you understand the situation and untangle issues better.
Know that you’re not alone
While revisiting the past or any trauma can be frightening, remaining stuck with those negative emotions can be far more damaging than facing them. Therapy is a great place to find support from a trusted expert professional who won’t judge you. Instead, you get a safe space to unload difficult emotions and learn better methods of dealing with them.