Why do we struggle to ask for help?

Helping someone else can make us feel good, so why can it be so hard to ask for help when we need it? 


Asking for help can be the hardest, bravest thing to do when you are feeling low and alone. It can feel daunting and scary, especially when you may be anxious or exhausted in day-to-day life. Asking for help may lead to more questions from people around you that you don’t know how to answer. 

So we keep quiet, dig ourselves in and avoid the question, hoping to resolve our struggles on our own or ignore them altogether.  

Understanding the reasons why you are struggling to speak up about your problems can help you overcome the daunting task of speaking to your friend or calling that therapist that you have researched on the internet.  

Why do we struggle to ask for help? 

Comparing yourself to others

"Comparison is the thief of joy" - Theodore Roosevelt. 

A common quote we hear and see on social media, but it is hard not to compare ourselves when faced with constant images of perfection and success stories across the news and internet. You may think that people around you have no time for you, they are busy, happy and successful, and they don’t want to hear about your struggles.

Telling people how we feel can make us uncomfortable, like we have overshared our emotions, but the more we do it the easier it becomes. You may worry that you will be seen as a failure or that you can’t manage if you reach out for support and this may hold you back from mentioning to people how you feel. Everyone has struggles and you may be surprised when the person you speak to can empathise and has experienced similar feelings. 

Everyone is unique, and measuring your level of unhappiness to others' can place barriers in the way for you to access the support you need and what can improve your life and your happiness now and in the future. 

Therapy can be a way to explore the reasons behind why you may be constantly comparing yourself to others and being critical of yourself, and it can help you improve your self-awareness and self-worth in a world where you are faced with images and the lives of others constantly in your day. Speaking to a therapist is something that anyone can do at any point in their life and you can find a space where you are accepted as an individual, unique and worthy of sharing your emotions. 

Dismissing and ignoring negative thoughts

Perhaps you feel that things are not ‘bad enough’ to ask for help. You may ask yourself ‘How unhappy does someone need to feel to go to therapy? Other people have worse things happen than me so why do I need help?’

Your pain, anxiety, stress and worry is unique to you. Your experiences are your own and your emotions and mood matter. Negative thoughts can lead us to feel demotivated and feel lost in what we are trying to do with our lives. Asking for help from a doctor or therapist can be intimidating when you are struggling with anxiety or it may feel impossible if depression is creating barriers in your life. You may start to feel like staying at home and avoiding the world will make life easier for you and that doing things outside and with other people is just too much like hard work. 

Speaking to other people can open a small door of strength, enough to call that therapist or book that appointment with your doctor. Counselling is an option which can help you find a way through depression, identify what brings you happiness and how you can move towards a more productive way of being. It can empower you to ask for help from people around you so that life can feel less challenging and more enjoyable.  

Losing control and creating change

Worry about change and losing control of our situation can make us feel uneasy with asking for support. It can feel like handing over control and power to another person if we ask for their help. Speaking about emotions may create change, and although that might be something we want, it also makes us fearful of what might shift in life. Change means going through something unknown to us, so staying where we are in a state that we are familiar with can be comforting in some ways.  

Therapy can gently support you to bring about positive controlled change in your life that you choose and works for you. You may feel that you have lost control by asking for help, but a qualified counsellor can empower you to take control of what is happening and feel comfortable to seek help from those around you.  

“Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. It's one of the bravest things you can do.”

Lily Collins

Worry about burdening other people with your problems

'How can I tell my family that I am unhappy and want something to change?'

Telling people how we feel can be challenging when they are the people we love. Wishing and hoping for change in our lives can be overwhelming at times and finding a way to speak this aloud when it may cause distress or confusion for other people can be daunting and seemingly impossible. You may prefer to carry the burden alone rather than trusting other people with your struggles, choosing instead to care and offer support and help to other people rather than yourself.  

Accessing therapy can give you a safe, confidential space to understand what you would like to communicate to other people and how you would like to make changes in your life. Speaking your truth to a counsellor you trust can help you find trust in yourself to set boundaries with people around you without feeling apologetic or unworthy of being heard.

Fear of being rejected  

Being rejected or dismissed can be a distressing experience. You may worry that you will be ignored or ridiculed if you ask for help and this would make your situation worse than how you feel right now.  

Accessing support and finding help can be confusing

Looking on the internet can create confusion about what is available. There is so much information and you may try to self-diagnose by reading articles about how to resolve things on your own instead of reaching out. There are so many different types of therapy and options to choose you may feel overwhelmed about where to start. Finding time to contact a therapist or book a doctor's appointment can be difficult in everyday life and if it is something that may make you uncomfortable, you are less likely to get it done.  

Making a small step to reach out for help can be the biggest move you make towards finding support and care for your mental health and well-being. Mental health professionals won’t judge you or try to dismiss your struggles and if speaking to friends and family is too difficult, seeking professional help can be a way to find your voice and learn what works for you.  

Exploring the reasons why you are not asking for help can reveal what is holding you back from having that conversation, why you are reluctant to reach out, and how that phone call has become a mountain too big to climb. By understanding the reasons why we struggle to ask for help, it might just help you overcome that barrier today and find the strength to say “I need help”.

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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Manchester M41 & M32
Written by Lorna Ellen Dungey, Registered MBACP, Person centred counsellor therapist
Manchester M41 & M32

My name is Lorna Ellen and I am a counsellor working with women and young people in south Manchester. I love having my own private practice, working with clients to overcome their feelings of stress and anxiety, empowering them to make positive changes in their lives. My favourite self-care is walking in the woodland near my home.

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