Signs you're ready for therapy

In a society that often glorifies strength and resilience, the idea of seeking therapy can be perceived as a sign of weakness. Most people don’t realise that seeking help shows immense courage and self-awareness. Therapy isn’t just for when you’re in a crisis, it’s a valuable tool for growth and building resilience. 

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I find that often overlooked is the idea that therapy isn't solely about addressing problems but also about fostering a deeper understanding of oneself and enhancing overall well-being. Therapy offers a safe space for exploration and self-discovery, allowing us to navigate life's complexities with greater clarity and purpose.

By normalising the decision to seek therapy, we can encourage a culture of proactive mental health care, where individuals prioritise their emotional well-being as they would their physical health. Embracing therapy isn't a sign of weakness but rather a testament to one's commitment to embracing their most authentic self.
 
However, the decision to seek therapy is often clouded by misconceptions and stigma. Beyond just acknowledging mental health symptoms, we need to recognise the broader impact on daily functioning.

This includes understanding how mental health struggles can permeate various aspects of life, affecting work or academic performance, relationships, and even basic self-care routines. While visible symptoms might prompt individuals to consider therapy, subtle signs of distress can go unnoticed. For instance, the persistent feeling of being "stuck" or unfulfilled in life may not manifest as overt symptoms but can signify deeper emotional turmoil.


Emotional signs

Recognising emotional signs is significant in understanding when therapy may be beneficial. These signs often manifest as subtle shifts in mood or persistent feelings that impact daily life. Some common emotional signals are below:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness: This can look like long-lasting feelings of sadness or hopelessness that interfere with daily functioning.
  • Overwhelming anxiety or fear: Intense and uncontrollable feelings of worry or fear that usually disrupt normal activities.
  • Mood swings: Rapid and extreme changes in mood, from euphoria to deep despair, without clear triggers.
  • Difficulty coping with stress or loss: Feeling overwhelmed by everyday stressors or experiencing prolonged grief after a significant loss. 

Behavioural signs

Behavioural signs often provide tangible evidence of underlying emotional struggles and can serve as important indicators that therapy may be beneficial. While some behavioural changes may be subtle, they can significantly impact daily functioning and overall well-being. The most commonly noticed behavioural signs are changes in sleep or appetite, substance abuse and social isolation.  

  • Disruptions in sleep, such as insomnia or oversleeping, can indicate heightened stress or underlying emotional issues. Sleep disturbances not only affect mood and energy levels but also impair cognitive function and overall health.
  • Significant changes in appetite, whether overeating or loss of appetite, along with unexplained weight gain or loss, can signify emotional distress or underlying mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. This can also be related to eating disorders.
  • Increased reliance on substances such as alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications to cope with emotional pain or stress can often be a red flag for underlying mental health issues.
  • Withdrawing from previously enjoyed activities or social interactions can indicate feelings of depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem. Avoidance behaviours can serve as a coping mechanism to avoid discomfort or perceived judgment from others. 

We also need to recognise that behavioural changes can vary widely among individuals and may not always align with stereotypical notions of mental illness. 


Cognitive signs

Cognitive signs play a significant role in indicating when therapy may be necessary, yet they are often overlooked or misunderstood. These signs cover a wide range of mental processes, including thought patterns, decision-making abilities, and self-perception.
 
In today's fast-paced world, many individuals face constant distractions and demands, making it challenging to focus on tasks or prioritise them effectively.

  • However, persistent difficulty concentrating may stem from underlying anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions, warranting professional intervention.
  • Intrusive or obsessive thoughts are often dismissed as harmless quirks or personality traits, yet they can significantly impact emotional well-being and our relationships. These persistent thoughts, whether about cleanliness, safety, or other concerns, can cause distress and interfere with normal activities.
  • Heightened self-criticism or perfectionism is another cognitive sign that may indicate the need for therapy. While striving for excellence can be a positive trait, excessive self-criticism and perfectionistic tendencies can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem.  

Physical signs

Finally, physical signs are often overlooked when considering the need for therapy, yet they can provide valuable insights into underlying emotional struggles. These signs manifest in the body's response to stress and emotional distress, highlighting the intricate connection between mind and body. This is even more relevant in certain cultures where individuals experiencing depression or anxiety may emphasize physical symptoms over emotional ones. 

  • Unexplained aches and pains may be manifestations of unresolved emotional issues, as chronic stress can manifest physically.
  • Digestive issues or chronic tension in the body can be indicators of heightened stress or anxiety.
  • Very commonly, fatigue or low energy levels may result from emotional exhaustion or depression, impacting daily functioning and overall quality of life.
  • Changes in sexual functioning, such as decreased libido or difficulty achieving arousal, may stem from emotional issues such as relationship problems or past traumas.  

I believe that seeking therapy is not a sign of weakness but a demonstration of strength and resilience. As a clinical psychologist, I emphasise the importance of normalising the decision to seek therapy, destigmatising mental health care, and promoting proactive approaches to emotional well-being. By embracing therapy as a valuable tool for self-improvement and empowerment, individuals can navigate life's challenges with greater clarity, resilience, and fulfilment.

Remember, you are not alone on this journey, and reaching out for support is the first step towards a brighter, healthier future.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London W1W & Sutton SM2
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Written by Raisa Luther, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
London W1W & Sutton SM2

Raisa is a senior licensed clinical psychologist with over 10 years of experience and specialises in the treatment of anxiety, depression, OCD, trauma, relationship issues and life transitions, particularly within the South Asian community. She is based in London and offers virtual therapy all over the UK.

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