When should doctors see a therapist?

Waiting to get help to improve your life and relationship is like waiting for the cancer to spread. You feel a lump on your body. Do you wait a few months to see if it gets bigger? Do you make an appointment right away? Do you avoid making an appointment altogether and hope it just goes away on its own?

Many times, we wait until after the divorce, after the accident, after our loved one passes away, or after it’s too late. Pay attention to the six warning signs below and get help when you need it.

1. You are questioning whether or not you should talk to a therapist. If you are questioning whether or not you should see a therapist, then you should see one. Many therapists offer a free 20-minute phone consultation to see if they are the right fit for you. Additionally, there is no contract or commitment to see a therapist for a certain length of time. So, there isn’t much harm in trying it out to see how it feels.

But, beyond that, the question in and of itself is an indicator. It’s likely that your intuition is subtly trying to suggest that you get help. Listen to it. You might be pleasantly surprised.

2. Your partner requests couples therapy. I have seen many couples where one partner shows up in the therapy office very eager to get started, and the other has begrudgingly tagged along. I have also spoken with many individuals in therapy who are wanting couples therapy, but their partner won’t come.

If one partner wants to get help for the relationship and the other partner doesn’t, this is typically an indicator that the problems are severe. The act of stating to your partner that you will not go to therapy can often make them feel helpless and hopeless that the problems will ever change. This lack of support and connection will often slowly erode the relationship over time. If your partner suggests the relationship needs help, then the relationship needs help. To not listen to this could be very detrimental in the future. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

3.  A loved one suggests you “talk to someone.” Nobody likes being told that they have a “problem” or that they need help. But in reality, this is the first step in getting help. It takes a lot of courage to humble yourself and see that you cannot fix everything on your own or that your life would be better with a little help.

If a friend, partner, or family member tells you that they are worried about you and that maybe you should talk to someone, take their advice. When we are struggling or are in pain, it is typically the majority of what we can see. It’s as if someone is standing in front of you and you can barely see around them. The issues or stress are blocking our view of the whole picture. Our loved ones can often see perspectives that we can’t. And, if they are worried about us, then they typically have good reason to be. Trust them and use this suggestion to get the help that you need. Then, thank them later.

4. You feel alone, helpless or think that nobody understands. When people are depressed, anxious or suicidal, they often feel very alone, helpless and hopeless. This can be a very deep, dark and all-consuming black hole that we find ourselves in. It’s also very dangerous because we think that nobody will understand, so we don’t get the help we need. This creates feelings of isolation and is often the place where the suicidal thoughts creep in.

The truth is that you are not alone. Over 15 million people in the United States are suffering from depression, which means that you know other people who feel the same way. Additionally, when you talk with a therapist, you can bet that the majority of people that sit in their office feel the same way. And, as soon as you realize that you are not alone, you will begin to get some of the power back that made you feel hopeless in the first place.

5. Your life or relationships feel unmanageable. When you are so overwhelmed by your life and relationships that you begin to hit rock bottom or a breaking point, you have typically waited a really long time to get help. Meanwhile, the cancer has been spreading. You have been ignoring or unable to see the warning signs along the way. And, you typically have not had clear boundaries to help you manage your life effectively.

We often feel selfish, mean or guilty when we say “no” to people, especially to those we love. We want to make them happy and to feel connected to them, so we give them what they want, even if we don’t really have it to give. The reality is that we need firm boundaries in order to best love ourselves and other people. Seeing a therapist can help you sort through the selfish, mean or guilt-ridden feelings that keep you from getting your own needs met.

6. You feel more irritable, impatient, dissatisfied, and unhappy than usual. Do you find yourself snapping and yelling at your spouse or kids? Is it difficult to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, such as eating a good meal, watching a movie, or going for a walk? Are you speeding more or experiencing road rage? Are you feeling dissatisfied with your job, relationships and life?

To feel the most happy and fulfilled in life, one must find the balance between pursuing their dreams and striving for their fullest potential while also find joy and connection in the simple, mundane pleasures in life. When we find ourselves off balance or struggling, we will often be lacking in one of those areas.

Kelly Smyth-Dent is a psychotherapist who blogs at her self-titled site, Kelly Smyth-Dent.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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