As a professional counselor, people often come to me when they feel their lives have become unmanageable. In essence, I’m their last resort. While engaging in the therapeutic process from a point of crisis is necessary and often life saving; it is not the ideal. By the time people have reached this point, the journey to healing is often more difficult and painful than it need be.
There are several indicators that can help you determine whether pursuing mental and emotional health support is right for you. These indicators can provide you with insight into your current level of distress and resiliency (i.e. ability to recover from distress).
The list below shows the areas of impact and levels of distress an individual may experience that could be improved through therapy.
- Decreased effectiveness on the job or in school. The number of mistakes you make at work may increase. You may begin to skip class, forget to do assignments, or become more easily overwhelmed by your responsibilities. These difficulties are severe enough to be noticed by your employer and/or teachers.
- Increased difficulties within your interpersonal relationships. Arguments with your spouse, partner, parents, or close friends may increase in frequency and volatility. Communication may begin to breakdown. You may experience increased emotional sensitivity and feel others are being overly critical of you or don’t understand you. As a result you may begin to withdraw from your support system.
- Increased engagement in unhealthy or risky behaviors. You may begin to engage in behaviors that include the following: drinking to excess or with increased frequency, taking illegal drugs, using legal substances in excessive amounts, engaging in binging and/or purging, overly rigid control of food-intake or exercise, risky sexual behavior, or placing yourself in other dangerous situations.
- Decreased physical health. You may experience physical signs such as increased frequency and intensity of headaches, gastrointestinal distress, and other body aches. You may even develop illnesses that are known to be caused or exacerbated by emotional distress such as diabetes, high blood-pressure, and heart disease.
- Increased emotional distress. This may look like the following: increased tearfulness or uncontrollable crying episodes, increased irritability, exhaustion, feeling unable to get out of bed, low energy, racing thoughts, excessive worry, feelings of panic or dread, overwhelming feelings of fear, anxiety, or extreme highs of emotion (i.e. periods of elation, extreme level of focus, thoughts of invincibility) that feel distinct from your normal levels of happiness or joy.
All of these are strong indicators that seeking therapeutic support could be beneficial to your well-being.
In the list above I purposefully used the words increased and decreased instead of something more definitive. That is because the mere presence of an emotion or behavior doesn’t indicate a lack of health. It is the degree to which you feel your life is being negatively impacted that determines whether or not seeking therapeutic support would be of benefit to you.
This week I talked about some of the more obvious indicators of mental and emotional distress. Next week in part 2, I will share some of the not-so-obvious signs.