The first rule of thumb: if you are considering whether or not to ask for support, a little extra support is probably exactly what you need.
However, that support might not always be therapy. Some folks think that therapy is only for people who have gone through what is called a “Big T Trauma.” And while trauma is certainly something that can be tended to in therapy, it’s not the only reason people go to therapy. So if you’re thinking about therapy for reasons other than trauma, know that you are not alone and that you are not overreacting by asking for support.
So what are some ways you can tell if therapy could be healing for you?
You have experienced a trauma
As we said above, trauma is a very common reason folks turn to therapy. Whether that is “big t” trauma (living through a natural disaster, sexual abuse, car accidents, etc.) or “little t” trauma (personal rather than large scale distress), trauma changes the way your brain works. It can alter and heighten your survival responses, and those responses can be triggered even when you are not in danger. In that way, trauma changes the way we interact with the world. A therapist will be there to help you understand your trauma, the responses it caused, and help you navigate life moving forward.
Your emotions feel “out of control”
What does it feel like when you have a strong emotion? Is it overwhelming? Does it feel like your emotions get worked up so fast that you aren’t in control of how you feel, or how those feelings make you act? This can show up in a number of ways. For some people, uncontrollable emotions show up physically, in the body. When they are anxious, their stomach turns or they feel nauseous or dizzy or short of breath. When they are angry they might get a migraine. If you struggle with feeling like you’re just at the mercy of your feelings–like if at any moment you could get upset and it could derail the day, and you don’t know why–then therapy is probably right for you. A therapist can help you first identify the ways in which those uncontrollable feelings are showing up for you, and then come up with healthy coping mechanisms to help you manage emotional episodes.
You find yourself frequently turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms
Unhealthy coping mechanisms can be things like:
- Excessive drinking
- Excessive smoking
- Increased risk-taking behaviors, like drug use or unsafe sex
- Spending time with toxic people just because they offer a distraction
If these are the kinds of coping mechanisms you use, a therapist can offer support and help guide you while you figure out why you choose the coping mechanisms you do, and what healthy ones you can begin to replace them with.
You find it hard to get through your daily routine due to anxiety/stress/depression/etc.
When emotional distress begins to repeatedly + regularly make it difficult for you to just get through the day, it’s time to ask for help. Everyone experiences emotional distress from time to time, but if your anxiety, stress, depression, etc. are so constant and overwhelming that you can’t do anything other than fixate on that feeling, there is a problem.
You’re constantly experiencing burnout
If you are constantly burned out that usually means two things:
- You don’t have strong boundaries
- Tending to your own needs isn’t a priority for you
Both of these things are signs that a therapist is a support you could use in your life! Working on boundaries, and self-care is a huge reason many people go to therapy. Understanding your fears behind setting boundaries, and why your needs aren’t a priority for you can help you start to make healthy changes in your life, and your therapist can act as both guide and accountability partner.