What Are The Signs You Should See A Therapist?

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated May 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Even when we’re going through a hard time in life, it can be difficult to know when or if we should seek therapy. Some people may approach life’s challenges with a “tough it out” mentality, believing they are strong enough to weather their battles without mental health treatment. However, choosing to see a therapist isn’t a sign of weakness; even the strongest among us need help sometimes, and some may say true strength lies in asking for help, even when it’s difficult. 

Whether you’re experiencing untreated mental health issues or are simply looking for ways to improve your life, therapy can be a useful intervention. In this article, we’ll discuss several indications that seeing a therapist could be beneficial for your unique needs and circumstances. 

Are you considering starting therapy?

Signs you should see a therapist

There are a variety of signs that could suggest it may be time to seek help from a therapist. However, every situation is different, and what pushes one person to pursue therapy might differ from someone else’s reasons for searching for support. Consider the following signs as you assess whether therapeutic intervention might be right for you.

Changes in sleep or appetite

Many people who have gone through mental health challenges report experiencing changes in their appetite and sleep patterns. For example, someone coping with high stress or anxiety may lose their appetite, while someone with depression may find themselves eating more than usual. Additionally, studies show that 90% of people with depressive disorders also have sleep complaints, including insomnia, restless legs syndrome (RLS), narcolepsy, and sleep-disordered breathing. 

Changes to sleep and appetite can vary widely based on an individual’s unique symptoms and experience; for example, grief may cause one person to overeat, while it causes a loss of appetite in another. Overeating and undereating can both negatively impact physical and mental health; the same goes for sleeping too much or too little. If you notice significant changes to your sleep or eating patterns, it may be beneficial to reach out to a mental health professional, as these changes could indicate potential problems with your mental well-being. 

Overwhelming emotions

We all have intense emotions sometimes, and there may be times when you feel your emotions more strongly than usual. However, if you find that your emotions are frequently overwhelming, or if you struggle to control your moods and emotions, it could be worth it to see a therapist. They can teach you how to manage your emotions more effectively and reduce the impact they have on your daily functioning. 

Emotional dysregulation may lead someone to experience angry outbursts, intense anxiety, depression, substance use, and more. It can be a common symptom in people with borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. Experiencing emotional dysregulation can be exhausting and have profound negative impacts on a person’s social, work, and personal life. However, therapy can be a helpful option, as trained mental health professionals can teach individuals how to cope with their emotions and learn to control them.

Experiencing a large or sudden life change

Change is the only constant in life, and yet it is often a difficult and destabilizing experience. This can be especially true when losing a loved one, going through a breakup, or experiencing a serious or chronic illness. However, “smaller” life changes, like moving homes, getting a new job, or losing a friendship, can bring the same difficult emotions that larger life changes do.

When we go through changes in life – especially those that are unexpected – it can make us feel a loss of control. This loss of control can lead to depression, anxiety, and other existential problems that may make it hard to feel like our usual selves. If the life change involves losing a loved one, it’s likely we’ll experience grief and the difficult emotions that come along with it. Therapy can offer a source of support and healing during challenging life transitions.

 Struggling in relationships

Whether romantic, platonic, or familial, struggles in interpersonal relationships may be an indication that an individual could benefit from therapy. Our mental health can have a tremendous effect on our ability to connect with others, and mental health conditions like depression may cause a person to withdraw from loved ones. Likewise, a person with social anxiety may yearn for social connection but fear social situations. In other cases, individuals may have many established personal relationships but find those relationships to be stressful and full of conflict.

Many studies have demonstrated that having close relationships with other people is an essential part of living a meaningful and fulfilled life. If you find yourself struggling to connect with others, a therapist may be able to help you understand how to improve your relationships or form new connections.
Getty/Vadym Pastukh

A lack of joy 

It’s normal to go through lulls every now and then, but experiencing a continuous feeling of emptiness or a lack of interest in the things you once loved could indicate a mental health condition such as depression. A common symptom of depression is losing interest or pleasure in things you once found joyful. This can include feeling disinterested in hobbies, family events, or other activities you once looked forward to. 

Activities like journaling, yoga, or meditation may be useful when attempting to reinspire your interests. However, if you find it hard or impossible to feel excited or joyful, talking things over with a mental health professional may be helpful. A therapist can help you identify the root of your feelings and give you tools for improving your outlook on life.

Unhealthy habits or coping mechanisms

Most of us have leaned on an unhealthy coping mechanism at some point in life, whether it entailed eating too much when feeling sad or watching too much TV as a form of procrastination. However, depending on unhealthy habits as our only coping mechanisms can exacerbate the underlying problem since the underlying emotions are being covered up rather than addressed. Additionally, relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as eating when feeling a negative emotion, can lead to more serious conditions like eating disorders or physical health problems.

If you find yourself leaning on negative coping mechanisms such as smoking, drinking, or overspending whenever you feel strong emotions coming on, therapy could be beneficial. A therapist can work with you to address the root cause of these harmful behaviors and help you find healthier ways to cope. Connecting with a therapist can be a positive first step toward creating more productive habits.

Lacking support

Everyone needs support in life, but not everyone has a solid support network. Some of us may not have strong family relationships or feel uncomfortable bringing our problems up with our friends. Even if we have a solid support network, we may still believe our problems are too overwhelming to manage without professional help. In these cases, connecting with a therapist can be an effective way to process your emotions and get support for life stressors, both big and small.  

Past trauma

Experiencing trauma, whether it’s a singular event or occurs over multiple incidents, can be difficult to heal from, even years after the trauma occurs. While talking about your struggles with friends and family can help lessen your pain, you may feel as if your traumas are too heavy to discuss with others in your daily life. Additionally, you might not experience the healing you need without speaking with a professional. 

Talking to a therapist about the trauma you’ve been through allows you to unpack and understand how these experiences may impact you today. A trained therapist can help you learn how to reshape negative beliefs that may have formed due to traumatic events from the past. They can also equip you with new coping skills and use specific types of therapy to help you overcome the impact trauma has had on your life. 

Looking to improve

Perhaps you’re not struggling with a mental health condition and don’t have many pressing concerns, yet you still desire to improve in some area of your life. Maybe you want to enhance your ability to connect with others or change how you respond in stressful situations. Or perhaps you need help cultivating the discipline and motivation needed to reach a certain goal. 

In any of these cases, therapy can be a useful tool in your self-improvement journey, as it encourages self-reflection and allows you to get to know yourself on a deeper level. You don’t have to wait until you’re struggling to seek therapy. In fact, regular sessions with a therapist can be important in maintaining positive mental well-being.

Are you considering starting therapy?

Finding the right therapist for you

Once you’ve decided you’d like to try therapy, you may be wondering how to find the right therapist. First, you may want to consider the issue you’re looking to address in therapy; if you have a specific mental health condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you may want to ensure that the therapists you’re interested in have experience treating that condition. Additionally, if you have a specific type of therapy you’re interested in trying, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), talk therapy, or art therapy, it can be useful to ensure the therapist has experience with those techniques. 

Often, you can set up a free phone consultation with a therapist to ask specific questions and see if you’re the right match. Some questions you may consider asking a potential therapist include:

  • What is your approach to treating mental health conditions?
  • Do you take my insurance?
  • Do you offer telehealth appointments?
  • Are you culturally conscious?
  • What treatment approaches are you certified in?
  • How many years have you been in practice?

Seeing an online therapist

There are many different types of therapy you might pursue, as well as different settings in which you can receive care. Online therapy has grown in popularity in recent years and can provide a convenient way to get the support you need. With online platforms like BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist at a time and in a place that works for you. Whether you’re juggling a demanding career, taking care of children at home, or living in a rural area that lacks mental health care providers, online therapy can allow you to get help when you need it most.

While many people think of in-person therapy as the gold standard, studies demonstrate that online therapy can be just as effective as in-office therapy in treating mental health concerns. In one study, researchers found that an internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention successfully treated a variety of mental health disorders. These included concerns such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), PTSD, bipolar disorder, chronic pain, and more. 


There are many reasons someone might choose to seek therapy, ranging from mental health disorders to general life concerns. No issue is too small to warrant therapeutic intervention; at the least, having a supportive and caring individual in your corner can be helpful as you work through life’s difficulties. Whether you’re experiencing challenging life changes, lacking support, or looking to unpack past trauma, therapy can be a beneficial way to improve your life and well-being. Online therapy can be a valuable option for those wanting to receive support, guidance, and advice from the comfort of their home. Since you can speak with your therapist through video chats, phone calls, or in-app messaging—much like you might do with a friend—online therapy may be a comfortable introduction to the world of therapy and provide a start to long-term mental health maintenance.
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