Today, there seem to be many perspectives on therapy. Fortunately, the stigma of therapy seems to be wearing off as mental health awareness continues to grow and the effects of mental illness are frequently seen on our televisions, computers, and throughout our daily lives. However, even though the stigma of therapy has faded, there does appear to be numerous confusing and competing ideas still present.
For example, grit is a big topic of the day. Grit, simply defined, is using passion as motivation to move forward in life, especially in the face of adversity. Grit understood correctly is a valuable attribute of a successful, healthy individual. However, when the definition of grit is applied incorrectly, it can reinforce old stereotypes and uphold destructive stigmas of the past. Even though grit is a deeply personal attribute, it should not isolate us. Equally, grit is not another way to communicate the old adage “Just pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.”
The other side of the spectrum is when a victim mentality is promoted. This perspective is displayed when people describe themselves or others as always the victim of the system or others’ behaviors. There seems to be a sense of unbridling of responsibility as well as innate helplessness attached to this mentality. This avenue takes agency away from the individual, and individuals spend most of their time fixated on the problem, without moving forward in life.
Reaching Out For Help
Like most issues, the answer falls somewhere in the middle. We are made to need others, and for decades research has shown therapy is a crucial tool for our mental health. With ideas out there that are so different, how are we to know if we need to seek professional help? Well, to be honest, there are innumerable reasons to seek professional help. With that understanding, this is not an exhaustive list; rather, these are 5 issues that I have consistently seen in my professional career. Here are 5 signs it’s time to seek professional help:
Five Signs It's Time to Seek Professional Help
1. Feeling Down Most of the Day
This one seems obvious, but it is a symptom that so many of us neglect or ignore. We all have seasons in life where we are sad or depressed. However, we were not created to feel sad for an unusual amount of time. Our minds and bodies have a difficult time when this occurs, and we should seek help when these feelings persist.
2. Diminished Interest in Pleasurable Activities
The Psalmist describes life with the Lord as “In your presence is fullness of pleasure.” Pleasure in life is not a bad thing; rather, we are made to seek pleasure in this life, not as the world seeks it, of course, but pleasure through the Lord. Many times, seeking pleasure is misinterpreted. We think the normal Christian life is a life of a suffering servant described in Isaiah 52 and 53. Or, like Job, a life with many afflictions just around the corner; however, these examples are exceptional circumstances and should not be understood as normal. That is not to say, we do not see trouble in this world. We, as believers, should have pleasure in life, and when pleasure is not the norm or it’s difficult to come by, then it could be a good indicator that there is a need for a change.
3. Excessive Fatigue or Loss of Energy
Especially if symptoms occur with other symptoms of mental health issues, being persistently tired can be an indicator that there is a need to seek help. Many times, fatigue can be a lesser-acknowledged issue, but if you have trouble getting out of bed, even when you have had an appropriate amount of sleep, or if you feel exhausted during the day, take frequent naps, or tiredness and sleepiness persist throughout the day, this could be a marker that you need to seek help.
4. Loss of Loved Ones or Great Disappointments
Too often, we have trouble admitting we need help, especially during traumatic events in life. Remember, even though he described some of his friends as “miserable comforters,” the spiritual giant, Job, needed support in his time of mourning. Jesus himself sought the disciples’ prayers of support during his foreboding of the cross. When we lose loved ones, or we suffer disappointments of personal or professional significance, we need to pay close attention to our feelings and behaviors. If we are experiencing excessive and prolonged sadness, feelings of worthlessness, changes in eating habits, insomnia or hypersomnia, weight loss or gain, these are signs of needing professional support.
5. Inability to Think or Concentrate
So many times mental health issues can manifest as an inability to concentrate or cloudiness. This can lead to significant issues with productivity at work, school, relationship with parents, or healthy functioning in any other relationship or responsibility. Some people report that when they go through traumatic events they have no other symptoms other than a loss of concentration. Therefore, if you are having these issues that are significantly affecting your professional or personal life, then it might be a strong indicator that there is something underlying that needs addressing.
Compounding factors of trauma may make it very difficult to know when and how to get help. It can be tough to walk through trauma and maintain a healthy perspective. This is why it is imperative that we use the support of others. If you are having any of the issues above or any other issues that are keeping you from a healthy, full, engaged life, it is helpful to seek advice from trusted people in your life and schedule a session with a professional counselor.
Now more than ever, help is available. From traditional counseling agencies to more telehealth options, there are people who are ready to help you get to a healthier place.
For free telemental health counseling, visit The Agape Center, a faith-based organization that provides outpatient therapy for youth and adults.
This article was originally posted by Dr. Booke Keels, Counseling and Outreach Advisor at Mercy Multiplied.