“I’ll go if it gets any worse.”
“It’s not that big of a deal”
“I can work through it on my own”
Have you found yourself making statements like these? How do you know if they are true or if it really is time to consult with a professional? People who know me personally often approach me with this question, so I thought I’d share a few tips to help you all sort this out.
Risky business?? This concept is about whether what you are experiencing is putting you at risk. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts, or are engaging in self-harming behaviors, the answer is yes, it is definitely time to go to therapy.
While this might sound obvious to you, I have people amongst my personal acquaintance who have experienced these things and who do not seek care, even when their annoying therapist friend is nagging them to do so… Other risky behaviors include substance abuse, food restriction (this often includes eating nothing or almost nothing for days, weeks, etc.), purging behaviors (using laxatives or forcing yourself to vomit to compensate for having eaten).
If you are doing any of these risky behaviors, please seek help immediately. Depending on the severity, medical intervention may be a necessary addition to psychotherapy.
The Great Escape
No, I’m not going to keep using movie titles, I don’t think. So, if you find yourself frequently doing something to cope so you can escape how you feel, it’s time to go to therapy. You might be scoffing and saying, ”Lillian, everyone has a drink/smoke now and then to relax.”
Think about your behavior. If escape is your primary way of coping, even if you aren’t yet engaged in a habit that you can’t control, you may be on your way. This type of thing can creep up on you. And, in the meantime, nothing is actually happening to improve the situation if you are escaping from the problem. Escape behaviors can include:
- Marijuana Use
- Other drugs
- Mind-Altering Substances
- Video Gaming
- Emotional Eating
Life As We Know It
Last movie title, I promise! This one is about your ability to live your life the way you choose. Is your anxiety, OCD, trauma, or eating behavior making the decision for you? If the symptoms you are having are making it so that you don’t feel comfortable doing social things, going back to work (after a trauma), dating, being intimate with a partner, just doing something you enjoy, or even simply leaving the house, it is time to go to therapy. If you are having trouble caring for yourself and/or the responsibilities of life, it’s time. This can include everything from personal hygiene, home maintenance, paying bills on time, checking the mail and attending to responsibilities found there, buying groceries, doing laundry, caring for animals and children, etc.
Maybe I Need Therapy, Now What?
The bottom line is, it is time to go to therapy if you are experiencing risk factors, falling into a pattern of escapism, or having trouble functioning. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but it is meant to give you an idea of how to make this decision yourself. I would also suggest that you pay attention to your loved ones, those whom you trust to genuinely have your best interest at heart. If they are expressing concern about you, especially if it is coming from more than one about the same thing, this is likely a sign that you have a serious situation that needs a professional consultation to address. If you want some ideas on how to find a therapist, check out my blog,7 Steps For Choosing The Right Therapist.
Doubt I Need Therapy, What’s Next?
If you have decided you don’t need therapy, but you have asked this question, I suspect you might need to improve your coping skills. There are good resources out there. I offer blogs about coping on this site. Just SignUp at the top right of this page to receive notifications when there’s a new post. Also, my primary therapy is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). The book The Practice of Happiness Workbook by Ruth Baer, Ph.D. is based on ACT principles and is a very user-friendly self-driven workbook that you might find helpful. I have no affiliation with the author nor do I benefit financially from the use of the link in this article.
Lillian Hood is a therapist offering Online Therapy services to adults throughout the state of North Carolina. Her office is located in Wilmington, NC. She offers PTSD therapy, anxiety therapy, binge eating therapy, OCD therapy, and phobia therapy. Text 910.742.0433 to schedule a free phone consultation, or visit our Contact Us.