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Jessica Booth
April 18, 2018 10:10 am

April doesn’t only mark the beginning of spring — it’s also Stress Awareness Month. Stress is something we all deal with, probably daily, because no one is immune. Stress has become so normalized that many of us feel like it’s just a part of life we have to experience, not something we should be trying to fix or that could potentially be dangerous. Excess stress can lead to serious emotional issues, anxiety, depression, and a slew of other illnesses, and it isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Many people assume their stress is fine, when really it’s one of the signs they should be asking themselves: Should I see a therapist?

That’s the reason Stress Awareness Month exists. This month is sponsored by The Health Resource Network, a non-profit health education organization. According to the official website, this is “a national, cooperative effort to inform people about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies, and harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in our society.”

It’s important to know when your stress has reached a level that requires attention. Sure, we all have our bad days, but at a certain point you may need to acknowledge that it’s time to seek professional help. Feeling consistently stressed out is one sign, but there are other warnings to look out for as well. In the interest of everyone doing what’s best for them, HelloGiggles spoke with professionals to learn the signs you need to see a therapist. If many of these ring true for you, you may want to seriously look into speaking with someone.

1. You have medical symptoms that tests don’t explain.

One sign you may need professional therapy? You have certain symptoms that medical doctors can’t seem to diagnose. We spoke with Licensed Mental Health Clinician Celeste Viciere about this and she said,

"People have come to see me after seeing their doctor and having some physical symptoms where all the tests have come back negative. After tests come back negative, the doctor will ask their patient, 'Have you thought about seeing a therapist?' People do not realize how much our mental and physical health are related, and they may unfortunately miss the cues."

This is often especially true with symptoms like intestinal pain or stomach pain — our gut is more connected to our brains than we realize, and excess stress, anxiety, and depression can leave us feeling  sick to our stomachs (literally).

2. You feel stuck where you are.

Viciere also said that another sign is “feeling like you are constantly doing the same thing over and over again with the same negative result.” If you feel like you’re stuck in a place you don’t want to be in, and you can’t figure out how to fix it, you may need to seek professional help. This could refer to a bad relationship, a constant terrible mood, or unhappiness at work.

Viciere said, “I see many people in this predicament. People realize that their actions are not helping them, but they cannot figure out how to stop the cycle. Seeing a therapist can help someone look at their life from a different perspective and assist them with making some positive changes.”

3. You feel like you can’t control your emotions.

Sure, some people are more emotional than others, and that doesn’t always necessarily mean they need therapy. But if you feel like you don’t know how to get yourself to stop crying, or like you can’t control your anger (or something along those lines), you may need to work with someone who can help you gain more emotional control.

Viciere said, “Many times, because our society only talks about positive emotions (such as joy or happiness), we do not have a clue on how to deal with some of the harder ones like sadness or anxiety. Because we do not know how to deal with these emotions, we end up bottling them up, which is the worse thing we can do. When we do that, we run the risk of having an explosion take place. That’s where you have people who feel irritable or angry at random times. Therapy can help someone get to the root of their emotions.”

4. You’re really unhappy with your life.

If you use social media at all, especially Twitter, then you know it’s not uncommon to joke about hating your life. There are tons of memes dedicated to the subject, and pretty much everyone has said it or felt it at some point. But think about it seriously: Do you really, genuinely feel unhappy with your life?

We spoke with Licensed Clinical Social Worker and best-selling author Shannon Thomas, who said that this kind of feeling is a sign we need help. Thomas said, “If we catch that our inner dialogue is frequently negative to the point of murmuring thoughts about hating our lives, it is definitely time to sit down with a therapist. Chronic negative inner thoughts can be a sign of depression.”

5. You need a drink to relax. 

This one is easy to blow off as no big deal — alcohol helps people relax, and most of us drink it because we want to feel calm. It’s fine to do this once in a while, but if you find that you’re reaching for a glass of wine every single night, and you can’t feel good without it, that’s a problem. Thomas said, “Finding stress relief by indulging in daily evening drinking is a red flag that we may not have the right coping skills to manage all the pressures coming at us.”

6. You have triggers quite often.

Think about this seriously: Do you have any triggers? Is there anything that always makes you feel anxious, stressed, nervous, scared, or depressed, no matter what? If so, you might want to consider therapy. Viciere said,

"Sometimes we have gone through trauma and do not realize it was trauma or have tried to block it out. Not dealing with your past and your trauma can cause you to be triggered by situations or people at random times. Having a therapist process this with you can assist you with coming up with a healthy plan to deal with the triggers."

7. You’ve experienced panic or anxiety attacks. 

It sounds really obvious to say that you should see a therapist if you’ve had a panic or anxiety attack. But listen: many people experience something like this, and they try to ignore it instead of dealing with it, which definitely isn’t the answer. Thomas explained, “Panic attacks are very scary and people often think they are actually dying when they begin experiencing attacks for the first time. Anxiety attacks can feel like an out-of-body experience and many people end up in the emergency room because the experience feels so out of control. Having panic attacks should serve as a motivator to find a therapist right away. Life has become so overwhelming, the body doesn’t know what to do with the excess stress.”

If you go through an attack like this, don’t feel embarrassed or blow it off like it’s nothing — seek help. You’ll thank yourself later.

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