wikiHow to Tell if You Need to See a Therapist

Three Methods:Assessing the Way you FeelConsidering Serious Psychological ProblemsConsidering How Therapy Can Help

Everyone struggles, but sometimes you may get the sense that your issues are a little more serious than ordinary worries or Monday blues. If you are going through a difficult time and none of the conventional advice seems to make it better, it may be time to try seeing a therapist.

Method 1
Assessing the Way you Feel

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    Notice feeling "not yourself." Maybe you feel like the version of yourself lately isn't someone you recognize, and you just can't seem to shake the feeling. It's normal to have a bad day, or even a bad week, but if the feelings persist and continue to affect your life and the way you interact, it might be time to take the next step and see a therapist.[1]
    • You may usually love being with your friends, but suddenly find yourself wanting to be alone most of the time.
    • Maybe you find yourself getting angry often, when you never used to feel angry.
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    Reflect on how your feelings affect your life. Do you notice changes in your feelings and behavior only at work, or only at home? Or have you noticed changes that seem to affect home, school, work, friends, etc.? Maybe you've noticed that things at school and with friends feel worse, or things with your family and at work have declined. If the way you feel across situations is consistently different than what is considered "normal" for you, it may be time to see a therapist.[2]
    • You may notice that your patience for other people at work has declined, and you explode at your kids more quickly than before.
    • Perhaps you've noticed your productivity at work sharply declined, and your caretaking of the home became abruptly non-existent.
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    Tune in to changes in sleeping habits. Sometimes it's normal to not sleep well before a big presentation or something you're excited about, but if you find yourself oversleeping (sleeping much during the day) or having difficulty sleeping (such as falling asleep or waking up throughout the night), it may indicate distress.[3]
    • Both lack of sleep or oversleeping can indicate distress.
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    Check changes in eating habits. You may notice you suddenly find yourself eating often as a way to cope with stress. Or, perhaps your appetite has completely left you and you barely eat, unable to enjoy food. Changes in eating habits can signal distress.[4]
    • Eating food may become comforting to you, and you find yourself eating excessively.
    • You may also find food unappetizing or lacking pleasant taste, leading you to not eat enough during the day.
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    Observe a sad or negative mood. If you feel more down than usual, or experience hopelessness, apathy, and isolation and can't seem to get out of the rut, it may be time to see a therapist. Maybe you used to feel enthusiastic about life and activities and now it all seems dull to you. It's normal to feel sad for a day or two, but feeling sad for weeks can indicate a larger problem. The sooner you find treatment, the sooner you can begin to feel better.[5]
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    Note if you feel more "on edge," jumpy, or high strung. Maybe you worry about small things, but lately worrying about things is taking a bigger role in your life. Perhaps you've noticed your worrying is taking over your time and life. You might feel silly admitting what makes you fearful, jumpy, or worried, yet you can't seem to shake it. If you're unable to get things done because you spend so much time worrying about things, it may be time to get help.[6]
    • Other signs of a problem with anxiety can include restlessness, irritability, and trouble concentrating.[7]
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    Speak with your general practitioner. Your regular doctor (general practitioner or primary care physician) is an important ally in determining whether or not you need to speak with a therapist, and she can also be a great resource to help you find a therapist that may help you. Make an appointment with your doctor and let her know how you've been feeling. She can then run some tests to rule out any medicinal contributors that may be the source of your negative feelings (such as illness, changes in hormones, etc.).

Method 2
Considering Serious Psychological Problems

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    Ask yourself if you have cutting or self-harming behaviors. Cutting is a way of self-harming that includes making cuts to the body with a sharp object, like a razor. Common places to cut include the arms, wrists, and legs. Cutting can be a coping strategy, a way to express one's internal pain and suffering through external pain. While it is a coping strategy, it is a harmful one, and people who cut can find healthier outlets than cutting to relieve their emotional pain, such as therapy.[8]
    • Cutting is inherently dangerous. You can end up in the hospital or lose your life if you puncture a vital vein or artery. Cutting should be taken very seriously.
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    Reflect on any persistent and pervasive thought patterns. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can affect thoughts and behavior to an extreme extent. While it's normal to double check to see if you've locked the door or turned off the stove, people with OCD may repeatedly check things. People with OCD may also perform ritual behavior over and over. They may have a pervasive fear that runs their life, such as needing to wash hands hundreds of times each day to avoid germs or locking the door several times each day to avoid intruders. Performing rituals is not enjoyable and any variance in the ritual causes extreme distress.[9]
    • Having OCD means you cannot control the thought or urges. Spending one or more hours each day performing rituals that cause immense distress and interfere with everyday life is a marker for OCD.
    • If you suffer from OCD, seek treatment. It is unlikely the symptoms will subside without intervention.
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    Ask yourself if you've experienced trauma. If you have experienced a traumatic event or have dealt with trauma in your life, counseling can help.[10] Trauma can include being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. Rape is a traumatic event, as is experiencing domestic violence. Trauma can also include watching someone die or being present for a catastrophic event like war or disaster.[11] Seeing a therapist can help you sort through the emotions and find ways to cope with the trauma.
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a real disorder that affects many people after a traumatic event. If you exhibit symptoms of PTSD such as nightmares, re-experiencing, or having intense fears about the trauma happening again, seek help.
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    Consider your use of substances. If you have recently begun drinking or using substances at a much higher rate, you may be using them to cope with emotional problems. Sometimes people use alcohol or substances to forget or distract from the pain they feel inside. Increased use may indicate more deeply seated issues that need to be expressed. Therapy can help in finding new ways to cope that are more effective and healthier.[12]
    • Drinking in excess can cause serious problems to your body. It is not a safe or healthy way to cope.
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    Think about any risks your symptoms pose. If you are at risk of harming yourself or others, then getting medical help quickly is very important. If you are immediate danger, Call Emergency Services. Get help if any of these are happening to you:
    • You have suicidal thoughts/wishes, or have begun coming up with a plan
    • You think about hurting others, or have hurt others
    • You are afraid that you might hurt yourself/others

Method 3
Considering How Therapy Can Help

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    Reflect on recent stressful life events. Major life events can contribute to distress and difficulty coping. [13] Therapy can offer an outlet to talk about these transitions and ways to cope better. Consider whether you have experienced or are experiencing:
    • Moving
    • An accident or disaster
    • Life transitions (new job, going to college, moving out of parents' house)
    • Romantic breakup
    • Loss of a loved one (bereavement)
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    Know that you can see a therapist to work on "lesser" issues. You may think that a person only needs to see a therapist if he or she has experienced major trauma, or is feeling suicidal or majorly depressed, but this is not so. Many therapists are holistically oriented and will work with you on issues like low self-esteem, marital problems, child behavioral issues, interpersonal conflicts, and increasing independence.
    • If you're still unsure, set up an appointment with a therapist for an assessment. This may involve taking tests and answering questions. The therapist will tell you the treatment options and his recommendations
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    Understand your coping abilities. Life will always throw curveballs when you least expect it, and it's important to know how to cope with difficult situations. If you lack positive coping skills or find your current situation too difficult to cope with, a therapist can help you discover ways to cope that will benefit you.[14]
    • Poor coping can include using drugs as a way to feel better, or drinking to get drunk.
    • A therapist can help you explore ways to cope and also help you practice these skills, such as using deep breathing or relaxation techniques.
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    Think about whether any attempts to feel better have worked. Think about your situation and the way you feel, and ask yourself what has helped. If you struggle to find things that have beneficially helped you, it might be time to reach out for some help. If you have tried and nothing seems to help, it's ok to admit that you don't have the tools to solve all your problems right now. A therapist can help you find healthy ways to cope and different ways to approach your problems.[15]
    • Maybe you've gone shopping to help you feel better, but afterwards you still feel bad.
    • If you've done things that have helped in the past (like deep breathing or exercising) yet find no relief, consider seeing a therapist.
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    Focus on how others have been reacting to you lately. Sometimes, others' responses to you can clue you in to the fact that your issues are more than just feeling down or worried. If your friends or family are tired of listening or trying to help, it may be time to see a therapist. Or, maybe you feel bad about "bringing down the mood" and don’t want to talk about your problems to your friends. A therapist can be helpful for you, too.[16]
    • Perhaps others have become more cautious around you, worried about your health, and/or afraid of you.
    • Seeing a therapist can help you talk about your problems freely as well as find ways to communicate appropriately with your friends.
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    Remember if therapy has helped in the past. If you have previously benefitted from therapy, it may help you again. Even if you decide to see a therapist for an entirely different reason, know that it has been helpful in the past and can help you now. Reflect on how you benefitted from in therapy and consider any ways that you think therapy can help you with your current situation.[17]
    • Contact your previous therapist and see if she has any openings.
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    Consider if you appreciate thinking and talking about your problems. It's fair to say that therapy may not be the highest form of treatment for everyone, and people cope and sort through problems in many different ways. But if you do benefit from talking through your problems, being asked questions, and being honest with another individual, therapy may be beneficial.
    • A therapist may challenge your thought patterns, so be ready to be asked some difficult questions. Know that a therapist is there to support you and help you grow. A therapist does not tell you what to do.


  • Remember that you are worth something. Don't wait and think, "I'll suffer alone," or, "They won't care." These thoughts can lead down a very dangerous road. People care about you, and no one wants you to suffer, especially not alone. You deserve support and help.

Article Info

Categories: Emotional Conditions | Mental Disorders