We’re finally starting to move past the days when talking to someone about mental health concerns was considered taboo and a sign of personal failure. But while many of us no longer dismiss the value of getting psychological help, we still struggle to admit to ourselves when we need to talk to someone, especially a professional, about our mental wellbeing.
You’ve probably felt the expectation to hide your negative emotions before. Throughout our lives, many of us were taught that vulnerability was a luxury over which we could not afford to interrupt our day, or that seeking help, either by opening up to friends and family or, worse, a mental health professional, meant that you were just not mentally strong enough to deal with life’s challenges.
These pre-existing internalized beliefs about mental health make it hard for someone to reach out to a therapist, but by understanding how these thoughts work against you and what signs to look out for, you may be more inclined to talk to someone.
On a base level, most people understand that a psychologist can help others deal with their problems, but these same people often have a difficult time admitting when they’re the ones that need helping. This isn’t because people actively want to be mentally unwell, but rather, they’ve been raised with certain values that have shaped their relationships with themselves and their mental health.
Talking to someone is difficult when it goes against your concept of yourself. If you see or value yourself as someone who is mentally and emotionally strong, going to a counselor can feel like you’re losing that aspect of your identity. This is more often the case for men, because many cultures do not value male emotions and can be hostile to male vulnerability. The unsurprising result is that men’s mental health problems go under reported and untreated.
Therapy avoidance may also be rooted in other cultural factors. Asian and Hispanic populations are less likely to seek out therapy compared to Caucasians people. According to a study published in the Psychiatric Services journal, Asian and Caucasian people may both feel that they need mental health services, but Asian people will seek out mental health treatment at a lower rate than their white counterparts. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports the same phenomenon among Hispanic populations.
There’s nervousness and then there’s anxiety. Knowing the difference between the two can help you figure out whether you need to talk to someone.
Anxiety and nervousness share a lot of the same physical symptoms. These include, but are not limited to, a flushed face, faster heartbeat, shaking or trembling, sweating, dizziness, tenseness, and shortness of breath. While both are distressing to experience, you can tell anxiety and nervousness apart by pinpointing three key qualities about your symptoms.
The first thing to look out for is their length. Do your symptoms pass relatively quickly or do they last for several minutes, hours, or even days? If you find that your dizziness isn’t due to physical illness and seems to stick to you for a long period of time, it may be a sign of anxiety.
A second quality to look out for is intensity. Imagine yourself in a situation that’s likely to make you nervous, like public speaking. Visualize yourself standing on a stage and delivering a speech before a crowd. How do you feel? Do you think you’d still be able to continue your speech? Does it feel like delivering a speech is the end of the world or that everybody watching you is judging you for every small ‘um’ you make?
Lastly, figure out whether your symptoms are affecting your quality of life. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM-V) uses four Ds to aid in diagnosis. Among these four Ds is dysfunction, which describes symptoms that begin to interfere with your ability to lead a normal life. Consider whether you can still effectively manage your nervousness. If not, does it make performing daily tasks, like going to the grocery store or talking on the phone, almost impossible?
I don’t blame you! Some days, you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed and feel grumpy throughout your day. Maybe it’s because of stress, lack of sleep, or the weather, but no matter the reason, your irritability shouldn’t be chronic.
Irritability that seems to last for ages can be a warning sign of either anger management problems or depression. Stay on the lookout for signs that your irritability is affecting your quality of life and your relationships with others. If you catch yourself being verbally abusive or physically abusive to friends and family, you likely need to talk to someone about your anger management problems.
Excessive anger and irritability are also symptoms of depression. This is because anger is a stress response to things that your mind finds threatening. When your anger becomes unexplainable even to you, it may be due to unaddressed depressive moods.
This phenomenon of substituting anger for sadness is common among men. Since men are discouraged from showing emotional vulnerability, depressive moods are often externalized as anger instead. The same is true for women but, due to ingrained gender roles that discourage female anger, they are more likely to express their irritability as passive aggression.
It’s normal to outgrow your interests and move onto different hobbies. What isn’t normal is the inability to enjoy anything. This reduced ability to feel happy or find pleasure in your interests, relationships, and other aspects of life is known as anhedonia.
Anhedonia is a major feature of depression, and one of the key symptoms that mental professionals look for when assessing clients. When people experience anhedonia, it’s common for them to slowly withdraw from activities they used to enjoy. This makes it one of the more noticeable aspects of depression. If you’re a regular gym rat, your usual spotter is bound to notice that you haven’t gone to the gym in weeks. The visibility of anhedonia makes it easier to spot compared to other signs of depression. If you haven’t noticed it yourself, chances are that someone else will notice that you’ve become more absent.
A lack of interest in hobbies and hanging out isn’t always anhedonia. It’s also possible that this seeming disinterest in life is simply fatigue. It’s hard to keep up with friends and family when you’re working overtime every week, making it perfectly natural to want to stay home and rest whenever you have free time.
Mood swings are common in both women and men. We all experience changes in our hormonal cycles, which can affect how we feel. These cycles, however, pass after short periods of time.
You’ll know it’s time to talk to someone if your mood swings take a turn for the extreme. Bipolar disorder is a condition that puts people through an emotional rollercoaster. One moment, you might feel like you’re on top of the world and can conquer any challenge thrown your way. The next, you may be stuck in a depressed rut that leaves you with suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors for weeks at a time.
While you may think that the manic phases of bipolar disorder feel amazing, they’re anything but. People with bipolar disorder may feel a euphoric high, but they often end up engaging in risky behavior they otherwise wouldn’t do. This puts them at risk of serious harm that could be as minimal as an ill-advised shopping spree or as dangerous as unprotected sex with a stranger.
When people think of substance abuse, cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol are typically the ones that come to mind. What’s interesting to note, however, is that food addictions also count as substance abuse.
The American Psychiatric Association defines substance use disorder as a complex condition where a person uses a substance despite its harmful effects on their body and mind. Often, the substances used are pleasurable on their own, like how food triggers the brain to release serotonin. But the way these substances light up your brain’s pleasure centers leave it addicted to that feeling. This prompts you to chase that high without regard for its consequences. In the case of food addictions, people addicted to eating will continue to eat despite the health risks associated with obesity, like diabetes and hypertension.
The effects that substance abuse has on people presents a serious obstacle to their ability to live their best lives, whether due to physical deterioration, weaker ties with family members, or ruined finances. Possibly the biggest problem that substance abuse presents is that people who have it don’t think they have a problem. This makes it extremely difficult to get them to talk to someone about their condition.
On the bright side, you may not have to keep track of all the warning signs on your own. Often, friends and family will be the first ones to ask you to seek professional help and encourage you to talk to someone about your problems. If the people who care about you become increasingly concerned with your wellbeing, try to have the patience to listen to them. These people may not know you as well as you know yourself, but the fact that they aren’t you can make it easier for them to notice when something is off.
Consider Online Counselling
Therapy isn’t a one-time activity where you go in, talk to someone once, and instantly get better. It takes regular combined effort between you and a therapist. Regular sessions have been shown to improve prognosis and produce maintained mental wellness. Psychotherapy alone, and psychotherapy with medication are more effective in the long run than using medication on its own.
Thanks to telehealth services, finding a good mental health counselor isn’t as difficult as it used to be. These days, you can talk to someone online by booking an online therapy session. It’s a convenient alternative to going to therapy in person. The fact that you can simply turn on your laptop to get in touch with your therapist makes it easier to attend sessions regularly.
Get Good Online Therapy
Taking the high-tech approach to mental health comes with its own unique challenges. Unfortunately, there are people out there who are willing to take advantage of those in need of psychological assistance by pretending to be therapists.
Online counselling requires the same skill set and training as in-person counselling. So, when looking for a professional to provide online therapy, make sure to do a quick background check. Ask your counselor which university they graduated from, whether they have a valid license, and what their specialization is.
Depending on where your therapist practices, you can check with their local mental health organization for a list of members. A more surefire way to guarantee that your online counselling is done by a professional is to check national databases. If a therapist is legitimate, you’ll be able to find their name on a list along with their license number.
Finding out your therapist’s specialization isn’t mandatory but it does make things easier for both of you. If you’re experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, a therapist that specializes in ADHD isn’t going to be as effective for you as a therapist with years of experience in handling mood disorders.
Online therapy may be new but it isn’t as daunting as you may think. Many studies have shown talking to a therapist online is as (and in some cases, even more) effective than in person therapy.
Need to talk to someone online? The team of therapists at Mind + Zest is certified, experienced and dedicated to helping their clients overcome whatever issues they may face. They create an open, judgement-free space where you can feel comfortable and safe.
If you're looking to talk to someone, head to Mind + Zest and book a free intake session with one of our intake specialists. Let us help you on your journey to better mental health!