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10 Red Flags That Indicate It’s Time to See a Therapist

The demands of life make it difficult to remain attuned to ourselves. As a result, mental health symptoms can literally sneak up on you, especially if you’re not paying attention! If you are experiencing any of the following red flags and they are lasting for several weeks, it’s time to reach out to a therapist.

1) You notice a significant change in mood

Are you more irritable than usual? Have you had an increase in emotional outbursts? This could be an indicator that you may need to meet with a therapist. If you are a person who usually tolerates stressful situations effectively and you’re experiencing an increase in frequency and intensity of negative emotions such as sadness, irritability, anger, frustration, fear, impatience, anxiety, etc., then it could an indication that your emotional cup is overflowing and it’s time to reach out for help.

2) Lack of motivation or interest

One of the hallmarks of Major Depressive Disorder is the lack of motivation and interest to engage in activities you used to enjoy. This can range from not wanting to socialize with friends or family or being unusually distant from coworkers. In addition, if you no longer have the desire to cook, workout, watch your favorite TV shows, or engage in other hobbies this could also be a red flag.

3) Loss of appetite or emotionally eating

Any drastic change in your eating habits is another red flag to be mindful of. This looks like significant decrease in your appetite or excessive eating, especially comfort foods, coupled with a significant change in weight.

4) Insomnia or excessive sleeping

Along with change in eating habits, the same goes for sleep as well. Any significant change in sleeping habits that last for several weeks is a red flag. This could look like difficulty falling or staying asleep, frequent disruptions throughout the night, difficulty getting comfortable, racing thoughts, and anxious feelings are all signs to look out for. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re usually tired, or find yourself sleeping to avoid certain thoughts, feelings, and situations throughout the day it could be a symptom of depression and anxiety.

5) Increase in physical ailments

This may be a surprise for some, but we hold emotional stress in our bodies. That migraine headache that won’t go away, or eye twitch, tension in neck, shoulders, and back, overactive stomach, or high blood pressure is often caused by stress. Simply put if your body feels off, don’t ignore it, seek help!

6) Relationships are suffering

Do you feel irritated by your partner, children, or friends? Or do you feel distant and disconnected from people? This is one of the most common reasons people reach out for therapy. In addition. friends and family members may start to worry about you and ask if “you’re, okay?” They may even suggest that you speak to a therapist. Take these concerns seriously, these are the people that know us the best, and they typically notice something is off before we do.

7) Increase in substance use

Has that glass of wine after work turned into a bottle? Have you noticed your smoking more than usual? Even if it’s prescription drugs, if you’re administering a higher dosage with minimal effect, you have either built up a physical tolerance or psychological one. Mind altering substances are one of the most common ways people cope with stress. It provides an “escape” and/or numbing experience to the reality of life. Even for the substances that are legal, they can still be subjected to abuse. If you cannot function without being high or drunk or have noticed a significant increase in your usage, therapy could provide space to directly address the source of the stress versus self-medicating to escape it.

8) Work performance is declining

For many of you, work may be your biggest stressor. The impact of the pandemic has exacerbated many issues related to work and productivity. Many services jobs require employees to be masked up and/or socially distant from their coworkers and customers. This along with the constant anxiety of contracting COVID or having to be off work for an extended period can have a significant impact on work performance. For those working virtually, you may feel distracted, unmotivated, or just in a “blah” mood due to your home and work environment becoming enmeshed for the last 2 years. If these factors are contributing to a noticeable decline in your mood, productivity, and/or quality of work, reach out to a therapist.

9) You’re entering a new season in your life

Major life changes often come stress. This could be starting school, a new job, new addition to the family, moving to a new home, or a recent breakup or death in the family. These significant life events are some of the most common reasons people seek out a therapist. Changes disrupt the routines and rhythms of life. It knocks things out of equilibrium and creates anxiety due to the perceived lack of control or inability to anticipate the future. Therapy can give you an opportunity to unpack, process, and establish a new routine for you and your family.

10) You’ve exhausted your normal coping skills

We all have our own toolkits of coping skills we utilize when we become stressed. This can range from exercise, yoga, hot baths, massages, paced breathing, mindfulness meditation, and talking to supportive individuals. You may come to a point where you’ve exhausted ALL your coping skills and they’re no longer effective. So, what’s next? If you guessed therapy, you are correct! Clinicians are often trained in advanced techniques that are not often shared on your favorite social media sites or self-help books. For example, many sources of stress are the result of unprocessed traumatic experiences that have been encoded into your body. Your toolkit of coping skills is excellent in helping you self-regulate when triggered but you may need a more intensive intervention to target the actual source of the stress and successfully process the traumatic experience so you’re no longer experiencing these reactions.

-Claude L. King, LCPC

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