Knowing When You Need to Consult a Mental Health Professional

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Studies show that more people experienced declining mental health ever since the pandemic started. Those who were already struggling found themselves experiencing even more challenges and barriers to full recovery and healing. But if we’re honest, we don’t need to see quantitative research to know that the whole world was negatively affected by the pandemic. We only need to look at our community to see how many people found themselves struggling.

Ignoring our feelings can only be bad for us. If we ignore our emotional and mental distress, it can lead to a host of other health problems, like physical pain and other illnesses. It’s not always easy to admit when we need help, but we need to do so if we want to truly thrive, not just survive. Here are some clear-cut signs you need to consult with a mental health professional.

You have been struggling for more than six months

While there is no clear timeline that can indicate when someone needs psychiatric help, one sign you might need to reach out to a mental health professional is if you feel like you have tried everything (from healthy eating to exercising) and still find yourself struggling for many months.

Writer and mental health advocate Andrew Solomon said that it’s normal to go through a season of grief after experiencing a major loss. For example, suppose you go through the death of a loved one. After six months, you’re still feeling unhappy, but you’re functioning a little better. You see and feel clear signs of improvement. In that case, it must be grief.

But suppose after six months you’re still feeling the same or worse and not functioning as well as you should, it might be time to consult with a mental health professional. The trajectory of your pain and progress (or lack thereof) will tell you a great deal about your needs.

Struggling for a long period might be a clear indication that you need a long course of treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It can help you deal with a range of issues like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), thought disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), among others.

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Your mental and emotional pain is affecting your ability to function

While going through a certain level of stress and emotional turmoil is normal, it shouldn’t come at the expense of your ability to get off your bed and do everyday things. You should take a shower or prepare your meals, let alone affect your ability to work and tend to your responsibilities. It’s normal to sometimes want to procrastinate. But if your feelings of drudgery are constant and overwhelming, this may be an indicator of something more serious.

Suppose activities that require little effort and time make you feel like you’re pushing a giant boulder up a hill, and it’s a constant feeling no matter the day or the activity. In that case, now may be a time to seek help from a therapist.

Your negative thoughts and feelings overwhelm you

Once again, negative feelings like anger, resentment, sadness, and others are normal. Having negative thoughts and being worried about your future is possible, too. But if these thoughts and feelings overwhelm you to the point that you feel like drowning, and it’s hard to think rationally, it can’t hurt to consult with a counselor. You can ask about what you’re going through. Here are some other symptoms of this problem:

  • Your reactions to bad things that happen to you are disproportionate. For example, someone makes a hurtful comment about your appearance, and you never stop thinking about how ugly you are. Or someone accidentally spills coffee on you, and you find yourself raging for the rest of the day, even if you know it’s not exactly logical.
  • Your thinking is disordered. Just because one bad thing happens throughout your day, like missing a bus, you assume that nothing else will go right in your life.
  • You attribute past traumas to your current circumstances. For example, assuming that everyone will leave you because a parent abandoned you as a child.

These experiences are nothing to hide or be ashamed of; you might find that they are fairly common. But the only way to get through them is by seeking professional help.

Research shows that psychotherapy works, but it is underutilized. If you have the means to consult with a therapist and seek help, don’t deprive yourself of it. Your healing and future are worth it.

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