Navigating mental health challenges can take a toll on anyone. If you have been going through mental health issues, it may have caused some disruption in your day-to-day life. Whether you are dealing with severe depression or crippling anxiety, or even just going through a stressful time or life transition, it is important to seek professional help to get things back on track. Seeking support is very beneficial for developing the tools needed to manage the symptoms you are experiencing and improve your quality of life.
When experiencing a mental health issue, an important first step to consider is connecting with a mental health counselor. Counselors have the experience and education to help you cope with the challenges that you are facing. A counselor can offer a non-judgmental space for you to share what you are experiencing and assist you in developing new coping skills for symptoms of anxiety or depression.
It is crucial to note that an individual does not have to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder to seek counseling. Seeing a counselor can be very beneficial for individuals experiencing grief, navigating a life transition, or facing stressors in the workplace or their relationships. Counseling offers a safe space for individuals to process difficult emotions and events and grow in self-awareness and understanding.
Let’s take at several common mental health disorders and how counseling may benefit individuals in managing these conditions for enhanced quality of life.
Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is defined as ‘feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.’ Many individuals experience occasional anxiety, particularly leading to a stressful situation like a deadline at work or taking an exam. However, feelings of fear and distress that are ongoing, uncontrollable, and interfere with one’s daily functioning may indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder.
There are various types of anxiety disorders which include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Specific Phobias. While each disorder has distinct signs and symptoms, they all tend to share similar traits, such as intense worry and fear accompanied by uncomfortable physical symptoms. Some people experience panic attacks, sudden episodes of intense fear that cause frightening symptoms such as chest pain, breathing difficulties, dizziness, trembling, and a sense of impending doom. It is common for individuals with anxiety disorders to avoid certain situations or environments that trigger feelings of distress, which may significantly disrupt their ability to attend school or work or carry out daily responsibilities.
Seeking counseling can be very helpful for individuals living with an anxiety disorder. Counselors can assist in addressing unhelpful thought patterns that may be contributing to anxiety and suggest coping mechanisms for times when symptoms of anxiety become overwhelming. While anxiety may not vanish entirely, working with a counselor can equip a person to learn how to manage their symptoms, so they are less debilitating.
Mental Health: Depression
Depression is a mental health condition that impacts the lives of millions of people each year. Various types of depression present with certain symptoms, or the symptoms appear under unique circumstances. Recognizing the signs of depression is crucial for being able to identify the symptoms in yourself or others. Some common symptoms of depression (also known as major depressive disorder) are persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, fatigue, decreased energy, loss of interest in one’s normal activities, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free, confidential, and available 24/7.
Living with depression can make carrying out daily tasks and responsibilities challenging. If you are displaying signs of depression, it is important to reach out for support from a counselor. They can assist you in developing awareness of certain patterns in thinking or stressors that may be exacerbating your symptoms of depression and how to recognize your triggers and signs of a depressive episode. They can also aid in providing coping strategies for managing during times when symptoms are intense. While there is no ‘cure’ for depression, working with a counselor can be an important part of learning how to manage your condition and alleviating the intensity of symptoms.
Mental Health: Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can significantly impact an individual’s mental, emotional and physical health. Several of the most common eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. While each eating disorder differs in presentation, general warning signs that may indicate an eating disorder are a preoccupation with food, calories, weight, or body shape, distorted self-image, frequent dieting, cutting out entire food groups, the presence of food rituals, binge eating or purging behavior, increased isolation, and significant weight fluctuations. It is important to note that despite popular misconception, eating disorders can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, age, race, weight, or body size/shape.
As eating disorders are dangerous and can even be life-threatening, it is crucial to seek a mental health counselor if you believe you may have an eating disorder. A counselor can assist you in exploring the underlying factors that may be contributing to disordered eating patterns. While eating disorders manifest in behaviors around food, they are actually about much more than that- and are often rooted in painful emotions. Exploring what underlying disordered eating is can help an individual to cope in healthier ways.
Substance Use Disorders
People may also opt to seek counseling due to substance use concerns. The recurrent use of a substance characterizes substance use disorders despite the harmful consequences. Signs of a substance use disorder include preoccupation with using a substance, frequent cravings, loss of control overuse, and the inability to stop using despite the negative impact on one’s life.
Maybe you are not sure if you have a substance use disorder but still, find yourself concerned about how your substance use may be impacting your work/school performance or your relationships. You might consider reaching out to a counselor who can help clarify how your use may be affecting various aspects of your life. A counselor can help you set goals to address your substance use and identify the deeper feelings and emotions that may lead to the desire to use alcohol or drugs. It is common for many individuals to use substances to cope with symptoms of depression or anxiety. Addressing these issues can be beneficial for learning healthier ways of managing stress and difficult emotions that will not negatively impact your well-being and relationships.
Sometimes relationship challenges will spur a person to seek professional counseling. If you have been going through a tough time with your significant other or spouse, mental health counseling may make a significant difference. Counselors can help you to address problems in your relationship that are causing friction.
Learning how to better communicate with your significant other is often a major focus of this type of counseling. Sometimes relationships will suffer due to a lack of communication or communicating ineffectively. Counseling can provide a safe space for both parties to express their feelings and perspectives and develop skills for problem-solving.
If you are facing difficulties in your relationship, consider reaching out to a mental health counselor. Doing so can be beneficial for addressing the problems in your relationship while learning how to grow closer and build a stronger bond.
We have discussed some of the most common mental health challenges that a counselor can help out with. However, this list is not exhaustive. It is also important to remember that counseling is not only for individuals with mental health diagnoses. A counselor can help you in navigating a stressful life transition or processing difficult emotions. No matter what unique challenges or stressors you may be facing, a counselor can meet you where you are and help you move towards whatever goals you would like to work on.
Online Counseling Is Available
Online counseling is an affordable and convenient option proven to be just as effective as in-person therapy. Through the online counseling platform BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist and schedule sessions at times that are most convenient for you in the privacy of your own home.
Remember that you are not alone in the challenges you are facing. There is help and support available. Getting started with professional therapy is an important first step in getting the support you need, no matter what you may be experiencing, and moving towards enhanced mental health and well-being.