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9 Signs You Should Think About Seeing a Therapist

Therapy can be life-changing. Here's how to tell if it might benefit you.

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You feel extreme sadness or anger

Out-of-control emotions may be a sign of an issue that can improve with professional treatment. “If you’re eating or sleeping more or less than usual, withdrawing from family and friends, or just feeling “off,” talk to someone before serious problems develop that impact your quality of life,” writes psychiatrist, David Sack, MD, for Psychology Today. “If these feelings escalate to the point that you question whether life is worth living or you have thoughts of death or suicide, reach out for help right away.” Here are 24 anger management tips to calm down quickly.

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You no longer enjoy things you used to love doing

If you don’t feel like participating in your favorite activities, a therapist can help you figure out why, says Marisa Alter, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. “This may be a sign of someone who is stuck in a rut,” says Dr. Alter, “or it could be a sign of a deeper depression.” Therapy can help you assess the situation, figure out what is holding you back, and create a plan to move forward. These are warning signs of depression you should never ignore.

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You avoid social situations

People often seek out therapy when being around other people makes them nervous. “If you find yourself avoiding parties, work gatherings, or even your own friends and family, there may be a fear of judgment or underlying feelings of inadequacy,” says Dr. Alter. When anxiety affects your everyday activities and interactions, therapy is a good first step toward working through it. These tips can help treat social anxiety.

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You notice unhealthy behaviors

While it’s fun to be spontaneous once in a while, it could be dangerous to let impulses consistently dictate your behavior. “When you find yourself spending more than you can afford, drinking or using drugs often, making knee-jerk relationship choices, or having overblown reactions to others, it could be a sign of deeper problems,” says Ryan Howes, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Pasadena, California. You may be using these behaviors to cope with or avoid dealing with difficult situations or emotions. Talking to a professional can help you identify triggers and understand underlying issues. These are the silent signs you may need depression medication.

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Relationships are difficult for you

If you find it hard to keep friends, or you frequently find yourself in conflict with others, therapy can help. When romantic relationships feel hard to manage or not worth the effort, that is another sign you may want to speak with a professional. “Reasons for this often originate early in life,” says Dr. Alter. “A discussion with a therapist about your relationship history can usually shed some light on current conflicts.” In therapy, you may strategize ways to communicate with others, or even role-play difficult conversations with the therapist as a stand-in for your friend, boss, or loved one, according to Dr. Howes. Don't miss these 11 signs you should consider marriage counseling.

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You’ve experienced a trauma

“Many people seek therapy after a recent trauma, like the death of a loved one, an abusive relationship, a miscarriage, being unfairly treated or discriminated against at work,” says Dr. Alter. “Or you may seek therapy to work through a past trauma, such as being the victim of sexual abuse as a child.” If you can’t seem to put an experience behind you, and it’s affecting your work, sleep, or relationships, consider talking to a professional. Use these 13 tips to find a therapist you can trust.

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You want to understand yourself better

“For some people, therapy is an opportunity to study themselves,” says Dr. Howes. Why did you enter your chosen career? Why do you pursue relationships with unavailable people? Why do you procrastinate? Why do loud people bother you? “Understanding why we think, act, and feel the way we do can be extremely empowering,” he adds. Don't miss these 56 secrets life coaches won't tell you for free.

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You want more support

Sometimes people seek therapy even if they don’t need an assessment, diagnosis, and treatment plan. Often they simply want someone to listen to them who is outside their usual circle of family and friends. “Whether you’re dealing with a divorce, a job loss, a new relationship, or a death, therapy is a great place to find the support of someone who won’t judge or lecture you, or focus on their own needs,” says Dr. Howes. Find out how to (nicely) encourage a loved one to see a therapist.

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Nothing you’ve tried seems to have helped

“Sometimes our own coping skills fail us,” writes John M. Grohol, PsyD, founder and CEO of Psych Central, a mental health social network. “If you’ve tried a half dozen different things already—talk to a friend, exercise more, seek out support online, read up on various self-help techniques online—and nothing has made much of a difference, that may be a sign it’s time to talk to a therapist.” Hopefully you'll start noticing these encouraging signs your therapy is working.