- Chris Pawluk
When Do I Need to See a Psychologist?
Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, despite what everybody’s photos on social media might make you think. The reality is that everybody struggles through big and small challenges throughout their lives — they’re just not sharing it online.
As you face your own life challenges, you might wonder whether something you’r
e struggling with is normal. Should you brush it off and keep dealing with it on your own? When do you need to see a psychologist or mental health professional?
It might seem strange — even scary — to consider getting professional help for something mental health-related. The stigmas that tend to follow mental health cause many individuals to avoid seeking out help when they really need it, even though research shows that psychotherapy helps improve mental and behavioural health over the long term.
If you’re on the fence about it, consider reflecting on your habits and behaviours to try and identify any of the following signs. It turns out that just like preventative medicine, seeing a psychologist when your concerns are small can be very helpful.
1. Trouble managing or processing a major life event.
Divorce, moving, illness, changing jobs, the arrival of a new baby, or the death of a loved one are all very big (yet common) life events that can take a huge toll on all aspects of your health — physically, mentally, and emotionally. These types of events are understandably stressful, which can make it difficult to be fully present and active in your daily life.
Trying to repress your emotions and carry on with life might seem like the standard approach, but seeking help from a professional can make the journey back to a state of normalcy a lot less painful for you. A psychologist can help you work through the issues you’re currently facing and implement strategies that are both healthy and effective at helping you cope.
2. Feeling especially anxious, overwhelmed, helpless, or hopeless.
Occasional anxiety and overwhelm are normal responses to stress, but constant intrusive thoughts that feel all-consuming and out of your control typically aren’t. The good news is that you can take back control of your thoughts and emotions by learning how to properly acknowledge, accept, and challenge them so they don’t continue to overpower you.
If you’re feeling inadequate, incompetent, or that there’s no hope in solving your problems, there’s a chance that you could be suffering from depression. Treatment for depression varies depending on the case, but a psychologist can help you manage and restructure your beliefs in ways that serve you better.
3. Work, productivity, or relationship problems.
Having trouble concentrating on necessary tasks, feeling pressured to achieve unrealistic expectations, and butting heads with colleagues or superiors are a few examples of work-related scenarios that can lead to compounded stress. In fact, mental health problems are a big reason why employees take sick leave or leave their jobs entirely.
In addition to problems at work, you might also find yourself withdrawing from people you were once close to and isolating yourself as much as possible. You might even feel angry or resentful toward someone, fueling greater conflict and diminishing good communication.
Whether it’s work or relationship-related, any problems you’re currently experiencing could grow worse if the underlying issues aren’t addressed and treated properly.
4. Changes in sleeping or eating habits.
Mental health problems can affect your physical health too. Those who suffer from anxiety and depression tend to be more susceptible to insomnia, and sleep deprivation makes it increasingly harder to control negative thoughts and emotions. Sleeping too much, on the other hand, could be a warning sign if it’s being used to cope with emotional distress.
Your mental health state can also cause you to eat too much or not enough — sometimes so much so that it becomes an eating disorder. Very low self-esteem and poor body image, for example, might lead someone to eat very little. Work-related or relationship stress, on the other hand, could lead someone to self-soothe by overeating.
5. Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
If you notice a serious lack of desire to perform tasks, engage in hobbies, or spend time with people that previously brought you fulfillment, you might want to look into what’s causing it. This inability to feel pleasure is called anhedonia.
Although it could suggest depression, anhedonia can also be a symptom of overwork, relationship problems, shifting interests, or just being stuck in a rut. Talking to a psychologist about how you’re feeling can help you get to the root of the problem and uncover whether it’s stemming from a mental health problem, or a lifestyle problem.
6. Using unhealthy behaviours or habits to cope with life.
During stressful times, it’s common for people to seek out experiences that increase feelings of pleasure. Sex, drug use, food, alcohol, and even social media all achieve this very easily. The burst of dopamine you get from them makes your brain crave more by creating reward-seeking loops, which reinforces your behaviour.
People with low levels of dopamine may be more susceptible to addiction, but regardless of your own dopamine levels, the feeling is always short-lived. If you find yourself becoming increasingly dependent on the pleasurable feelings you get from sex or substances, seek help from a professional immediately.
Do you need to see a psychologist?
It’s not always clear what to do — especially when it’s just you trying to analyze your own habits and behaviours. But if you have a gut feeling that you could use some help, or if someone close to you has suggested it, then it’s probably a good idea to talk to someone.
No concern is too small or insignificant to talk to a professional about it. Psychologists provide a supportive environment for you to talk openly and confidently about what’s going on — even if all you’re looking for is some extra support or advice. In fact, seeking help earlier rather than later is in your best interest if you want to prevent more serious problems from potentially arising in the future.
Ready to speak with a professional about something that’s on your mind? Book an appointment with our team of psychologists now. You’ll be one step closer to peace of mind.