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I’m a firm believer that everyone would benefit from seeing a therapist. No matter how rosy our lives may seem, there is always a higher level of self awareness that we can achieve, one that can be derived from an educated outside perspective. That being said, therapy isn’t cheap. So, whether or not to see a therapist becomes a cost benefit analysis. Would the help that you need be worth the money? That depends on how badly you need said help. I’ve compiled a list of signs that indicate you should consider investing in a psychotherapist.
1.) You’ve experienced a trauma.
This is the most straightforward rationale. Trauma fundamentally alters our brain chemistry, and as laypeople we just aren’t cut out for navigating a shift of that magnitude. Therapists go to school for years, learning what trauma is and how to begin to heal, how to guide their patients along the path of recovery. Trauma, at a basic level, is a complete systemic shock. We’re not supposed to know how to deal with it. But therapists are.
My first major, identifiable trauma was my abusive relationship. Once I got out of it, I developed my eating disorder to cope. I was in therapy but I didn’t disclose the relationship to my therapists for a variety of reasons. I was on my own when it came to healing, and I didn’t prove myself to be a terribly effective self motivator. I spiraled into Anorexia and entered into another toxic, manipulative relationship that constituted, in more complicated ways, my second identifiable trauma. Had I been honest with my treatment team and committed to therapy, neither of those outcomes may have occurred.
If we’re humbly honest with ourselves, we realize that we have no idea how to deal with sudden, traumatic events. We haven’t ever learned how, and without guidance, we will sink. Therapists have learned, and will share their tools to prevent spiraling.
2.) You’re an addict.
The case can be made that addictions come in an extensive myriad of forms, but for now I’m going to stick to the classic cluster: drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling. An addiction is a coping mechanism for a larger problem; this is addiction 101. The main reason people become hooked onto tangible, external objects and experiences is because their sober and/or solo reality is not palatable. Why? That question is the key to it all.
AA, NA, and the like are the most popular for their accessibility. They’re free programs and are extremely common, with seeds planted in most towns and all major cities. From what I’ve been able to glean while attending and researching, they’re centered in exploring the reasons behind addiction (once an addiction has been admitted), and releasing yourself from an addiction can only come when you’ve done enough self exploration to understand why you got hooked, in order to address the trigger and prevent relapse.
Can this simply be achieved via sponsorship, which is a mentorship between senior and new members in Anonymous meetings? Sometimes. A sponsor has worked the program successfully, somehow, meaning they’ve lived a path of self exploration and healing that is often extremely valuable when taught to a newer, more ill member. There’s a reason, however, that rehabs are so often necessary. Trained therapists can be a preferable resource for the addict.
So, as you reflect upon your own habits and structures, ponder if there’s anything you can’t let go of. Is some behavior of yours maladaptive, or is it hurting you in some way? If the answers to those questions are yes, then seeking help is worth the cost. Go to Anonymous groups, yes. They’re proven effective for a majority of addicts. But strongly consider seeking professional help, too. Addiction is, of course, notoriously adhesive. You may need deeper digging into your past and lifestyle in order to unlock recovery.
3.) You’re withdrawing from your daily life.
This is a common symptom of depression, but it’s also a result of plenty of mental illnesses (for me, doing so was largely OCD related, with a hint of depression). Depressed people notoriously drop activities that are meaningful to them, and push away people they once felt close to. It’s a self sufficient spiral of daily destruction that breeds desperation and loneliness. It’s a major red flag.
People who are of sound mind remain in activities that bring them joy or other benefits, and quit activities that do neither for them. When I quit soccer, violin, basketball, theater, singing, and debate, each withdrawal was a red flag that I was spiraling. I put no practice and time in, and eventually left every activity behind, instead seeking refuge under my duvet, which shielded me from every neon fear that greeted me where the light touched. I didn’t text or seek the company of my friends and I lost contact with many of them.
Inexplicably losing interest in people and things once cherished is a classic sign of illness, and when there is illness, a doctor is almost always needed to diagnose and treat. The therapist may simply refer you to a doctor who can prescribe medication, but there may also be deeper reasons for the depression and/or withdrawal that should be reviewed.
4.) You have difficulty maintaining relationships.
This symptom is slightly different from the previous, in that you may be trying to have relationships with people, but they almost always fade away or, most commonly in a maladaptive dynamic, crash and burn. There are a few common reasons for this.
Perhaps the most common is a personality disorder. All of the major personality disorders– Borderline, Antisocial, Histrionic, Narcissistic, etc- are characterized in part by unstable, unsustainable relationships. Each is of this nature for different reasons, but the bottom line is that the sufferer attempts to create bonds with people and finds themselves unable to do so, or unable to do so sustainably, much of the time.
Personality disorders can be difficult to treat, but they almost always respond well to a form of psychotherapy. In particular, DBT and Mentalization therapies have been proven effective in treating personality disorders.
If your relationships, whether familial, friendly, or romantic, are characterized by instability and intensity, seemingly crashing and burning more often than not, something disordered is likely happening and you should almost certainly seek treatment of some sort, no matter the cost. There is much self exploration that can be done to help manage personality disorders, but it’s intense and should be done with educated guidance that only a psychotherapist could provide.
These are just a sampling of reasons why folks should seek professional guidance. Anyone would benefit from therapy if they have the funds to do so. In the above cases, whatever the funds are would almost certainly be worth it. I’d encourage you, if you meet any of the above criteria, to research therapists in your area, their rates, and your insurance coverage. Therapy has the proven potential to turn your life around.