Concerned About Your Mental Health? Therapy Can Help
Updated March 05, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa
Do you ever feel like something isn't quite right with the way you think, feel, or behave? It's distressing to think that you may be having mental problems. You don't have to live with that feeling. Instead, you can take charge of your mental health. Therapy is one way to do that.
What Does It Mean to Be Mentally Healthy?
It helps to start with a clear picture of what being mentally healthy looks like. Here are some signs of good mental health:
- You feel good about yourself.
- You can express your emotions, but you don't get overwhelmed by them.
- You have positive and lasting relationships.
- You feel comfortable in social situations.
- You have a good sense of humor.
- You respect others even when you disagree with them.
- You accept that life is sometimes disappointing.
- You can manage your responsibilities.
- You can deal with problems that come up.
- You make your own choices in life.
- You know when to accept things as they are and when to work towards changes.
Why Does Mental Well-Being Matter?
Good mental health is one of the most precious things you can have. It influences every aspect of your life. When you're mentally healthy, you can do all the following:
- Take good care of your physical health.
- Work productively and get along with coworkers and supervisors.
- Cope with the stresses of everyday life.
- Help others in your community.
- Have better relationships.
- Reach your highest potential as a person.
- Enjoy your life more.
- Be creative and a problem-solver.
- Bounce back from disappointments.
How Common Are Mental Health Problems?
If you do have a mental health problem, you aren't alone. Nearly everyone has mental health issues from time to time. In fact, it's been estimated that about 26 percent of all adults in the U.S. have some kind of diagnosable mental health disorder.
So, if you're worried that having a mental health issue makes you different or not as good as other people, don't be. It just means you're human. Recognizing and seeking help for your mental health difficulties is what's important.
Do I Have A Mental Health Problem?
While it's a bad idea to diagnose yourself or others, it's good to know the warning signs of mental health conditions. If you're experiencing any of the following, you may need to get mental health therapy:
- You start eating or sleeping too much or too little.
- You avoid being around other people.
- Your energy level plummets.
- You feel emotionally numb.
- You have aches and pains you can't explain.
- You feel hopeless or helpless.
- You increase your smoking, drinking, or drug use.
- You feel confused, upset, forgetful, or scared more often than usual.
- You fight with your loved ones.
- You have mood swings that interfere with relationships.
- You often ruminate about bad thoughts and memories.
- You hear or see things that aren't there.
- You can't keep up with your daily routine and responsibilities.
Does Therapy Really Work?
For many people worried about their mental health, the real question is: Does mental health therapy help? While it would be an exaggeration to say that it always helps everyone, it can be very beneficial. In therapy, you can finally have a chance to be listened to and heard. And, you can work toward resolving your mental health problems.
How well it works depends on three things: what you put into it, what your therapist contributes, and the type of treatment. So, you need to be sure to work with a reputable therapist who has experience in mental health counseling and can provide the kind of therapy that's right for your condition. Then, you need to do your part, too, to get the best results.
What Would A Mental Health Therapist Do?
Mental health therapy usually happens in sessions. Typically, you'll work with your therapist for a half hour or an hour. The exact form of treatment determines what exactly will happen during the sessions. Some techniques focus more on discussing problems and finding solutions, with your therapist leading the way. Non-directive therapy puts you in the driver's seat, but your therapist will still help you.
Therapists may also use specific science-backed techniques suited to help with your mental health condition. For example, if you have a phobia, they may use a desensitization technique to expose you to the object of your fear a little at a time. If you want to change your behavior, they may help you using cognitive behavioral therapy to identify, challenge, and change the unhelpful thoughts behind those unwanted behaviors. You always have the right to request and receive information about your therapist and the treatments they'll be using.
What Would I Have To Do?
It's crucial to understand that therapy isn't something that a therapist does to you. You need to be a willing and cooperative partner in the therapeutic process. It's always okay to question what's happening in therapy. Having moments of resistance is fine. However, you do need to do your part if you expect to see results. Here are some things you can do to improve your outcome:
- Show up to therapy on time and avoid skipping sessions
- Keep a journal of feelings, symptoms, and thoughts that are troubling you
- Ask questions when you don't understand
- Focus on problem-solving
- Participate actively
- Be willing to consider new ideas and solutions
- Do any homework your therapist assigns for between sessions
What If I Don't Like Therapy?
Maybe you're considering therapy, but you're worried about what will happen if you start and don't like it. The good news is that you're completely in control of whether you continue or not. Unless you're doing court-ordered therapy, you can leave at any time.
But, before you quit, here are a few things to consider:
- It may take some time to see results. Ask your therapist for a rough estimate of how long it will take. Then, practice patience as you work towards your mental health goals.
- The therapist might not be a good fit for you. Your personalities may clash, for example. You may have a better outcome with a different counselor.
- If you're afraid of any aspect of therapy, you may resist it. In that case, you may need to work on that fear issue first. Be willing to communicate your fears so you can work with your therapist to resolve them.
- You might have unrealistic expectations. Although therapy can help you deal with problems better as they arise, it isn't necessarily going to make your life a dream come true. Talk to your therapist about what you hope to get from therapy and be a part of the goal-setting process.
What If I'm Making Something Out Of Nothing?
One of the biggest barriers to getting mental health help is the idea that you might be exaggerating the problem. You tell yourself it isn't that big of a deal. You try to ignore it and hope it will go away on its own. Unfortunately, many people take this route, and their problems continue or even get worse.
When you start therapy, you can explain your hesitance and ask if the therapist thinks therapy would benefit you. They might say that you're doing just fine. Or, maybe they'll tell you that a few sessions will get you back on track. If they do recommend an extended period of counseling, they'll tell you why and how they can help. Again, it's totally up to you whether to keep up with therapy. Either way, there's very little risk involved in having a therapy session to determine if the problem is significant.
What Will Others Think?
Many people avoid mental health counseling because they're afraid of what their friends and family might think of them. Unfortunately, mental health stigma is a real thing. Some people don't understand the process of therapy or how it can help. Others think that you should resolve your problems without help.
Yet, you don't have to let their opinions limit your ability to have good mental health. You have the right to get help for improving your mental health. You can stand up to the stigma if you choose to do so. On the other hand, if you want to keep your sessions private, you can certainly do that, too. Online therapy allows you to have complete privacy. You don't have to go to a mental health center or psychologist's office where others might recognize you. You can have therapy wherever is most comfortable for you.
How Can I Get Started?
Taking that first step to begin therapy can be frightening. After all, you're venturing into the unknown. Being a little nervous is okay. It doesn't have to stop you from seeking help. Look for a counselor in your local area. Or, if you would like to work with an online therapist, you can go to BetterHelp and sign up for counseling with the therapist of your choice. Whether your mental health issues are large or small, talking to a therapist may just be the best way to put your mind at ease.
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