Do I Need Therapy? [The Stigma That Still Surrounds Mental Health]
“Do I need therapy? Am I crazy? I don’t think I am. So why do I feel like a crazy person?” Have you ever thought that to yourself? Feelings of shame and frustration over your perceived abnormal thoughts and feelings? While the stigma around mental health has improved in recent years, there’s still shame and embarrassment associated with seeking mental health counseling.
Stigmas In Mental Health
The journal Psychological Medicine recently published an article revealing how the stigma associated with mental illness is still a significant barrier to seeking treatment. Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London reviewed the data from 144 studies, including 90,000 participants from around the globe. They discovered that the stigma of mental illness remains one of the top reasons people choose to forgo care.
In addition, experts estimate that while 1 in 4 people have treatable mental or emotional difficulties, 75% of Americans and Europeans don’t seek the help they need.
It’s almost impossible to fight mental health illnesses alone effectively. However, instead of seeking the help we desperately need, we internalize the stigmas associated with mental illness. We quickly define ourselves and our struggles through the misconceptions of stigma.
Years of survival have hardwired our human brains to strive to fit in with socially acceptable norms. After all, in ancient times, our survival depended on our ability to blend in with the crowd. Being forced to leave a group and fend for yourself was a death wish. Unfortunately, our ancient brains still do a lot of our thought processing, which is partly why mental health stigmas remain prevalent. We don’t seek help because we don’t want others to judge us for seeking treatment. Fears of others defining us as weak or incompetent, or even worse, seen as unable to care for ourselves, drive our decisions. As we internalize these stigmas, we feel shame and embarrassment around the topics.
Mental Health Issues Are Common
While mental health stigmas want us to believe that mental health struggles are the exception, this simply isn’t true. Mental health issues are common. In fact, statistics gathered by the National Alliance on Mental Health revealed that 1 in every 5 American adults has some varying degree of mental health condition. In addition, 1 in 20 adults experiences a serious mental health condition each year. Finally, 1 in 6 U.S. youth ages 6-17 experience a mental health disorder.
Tragically, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 34. Currently, 90% of people who die by suicide in the U.S. live with a mental health condition.
7 Signs You May Need Therapy
If you’re wondering if you need therapy, the answer is probably! Mental health counseling can help people struggling with numerous challenges, from emotional struggles to life challenges to processing change, grief, and anger to addressing mental health concerns. Therapy may be a good option when any mental health or emotional concern affects your daily life and function. Therapy can help you learn about your feelings, why you might be feeling them, and how to cope.
Therapy can improve many symptoms of mental health conditions and help you embrace and grow (not change) the person you are. Research highlights that the benefits of therapy last longer than medication. While medication can reduce some symptoms of mental health conditions, therapy will teach you the skills needed to address many symptoms on your own – increasing self-confidence, self-advocacy, and self-worth. These skills can last a lifetime, long after therapy ends.
Please keep in mind that, as humans, we all feel a range of emotions throughout any given day. It’s when these emotions impede your quality of life and ability to function and cause continual distress that therapy may help.
You may want to consider talking to a counselor if you consistently feel overwhelmed — like you have too many things to do or problems to address. Of course, we all go through busy periods where we feel we have too much on our plates, but a constant feeling of stress and anxiety may mean you need help prioritizing your “to-do” lists so you can enjoy each day.
2. Disproportionate Anger or Resentment
As human beings, we all feel anger at times. Even passing rage (why didn’t that driver use their darn turn signal!?) is common. However, if those feelings don’t pass or are an extreme response to a situation or lead you to violent or harmful actions, you should seek support to address these feelings.
If you feel you have no future, nothing to look forward to, or no reason to get up in the morning, this can indicate you’re struggling with depression or another mental health condition. It is normal to occasionally feel hopeless, especially after a challenging period or loss, is common. However, if the feelings persist or lead to thoughts of suicide, talk to someone about what’s going on.
4. Social Withdrawal
We all need a little time alone occasionally – some more than others. However, if you feel distressed around others or fearful of going out in social settings, therapy can help you address these feelings and grow in confidence. In addition, if you find that social activities that previously brought you joy now bring you feelings of dread or stress, you may want to talk to a counselor.
5. Anxious or Intrusive Thoughts
Sometimes you can’t help but worry. After all, so much bad can go wrong in this crazy world, giving us plenty of reason to worry. While it’s normal to worry about things occasionally, it isn’t healthy to stress and obsess over every possible outcome. Excessive worrying can consume large parts of your mental processes and large amounts of your day. If this happens, therapy can help you address it.
While fatigue is a physical symptom, it often is a byproduct of a mental health issue. For example, fatigue can indicate depression and cause you to want to sleep more than usual or not want to pry yourself from your covers each morning to embrace the day. If you feel habitually exhausted and drained physically and emotionally, talking to a counselor can help.
Agoraphobia is a fear of being in places where you may experience a panic attack or become trapped. This fear can cause you to worry about leaving your home and taking away from your quality of life. If you find fear is dictating your decisions, talking to someone about this can help.
What If Therapy Didn’t Work For Me?
Therapy is not like taking a pill – sometimes, it doesn’t “work” immediately. Even in an ideal therapy situation, it takes time, and hard thought work for symptoms to improve. So while going to therapy and not seeing instant change is frustrating, long-lasting change takes time.
It is helpful to look for therapists who specifically treat what you’re experiencing. If you don’t know the diagnosis for your struggles, you can talk to potential therapists about your symptoms. Most therapists will let you know if they have the tools to address your concern. If they feel someone else is a better fit, they can provide you with a recommendation.
Benefits of Seeking Therapy
If you are willing and prepared to put in the time and work, therapy can change your life. It’s a judgment-free, safe space where you can explore your thoughts, feelings, and ideas about yourself and others with curiosity while a trained professional helps guide you every step of the way.
1. You Learn More About You
Therapists will listen to your story and help you make connections with yourself. We rarely have time in our busy society to get to know ourselves – a therapy session provides that space to reconnect with an old friend – you!
2. Achieve Your Goals
Therapy can help you identify and achieve your goals. In addition, therapy gives you realistic steps to take toward meeting your goals and provides accountability on your journey. In addition, therapy helps address what may be holding you back from reaching these goals and achieving the life you envision.
3. More Fulfilling Relationships
Whether you’re single, married, in a relationship, a parent, or have friends – if you have any human connections, therapy can help you develop those relationships. Therapy sessions can give you the tools to overcome insecurities and create healthy boundaries, which leads to more fulfilling relationships.
Let’s Talk About It
While it takes an entire community to battle mental health stigmas, awareness starts with educating and informing yourself. Empower yourself to speak up about mental health illness and dismantle stigmas to create a culture of recovery.
Our team at Racing For Mental Health is eager to hear your story about your mental health journey and the steps you’re taking to live your life to the fullest. Comment below or reach out to us.
You can also join our conversations on mental health on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!