How do you know when it’s time to seek psychological therapy for anxiety? Sometimes the answer can be ambiguous. ‘Do you feel you need therapy?’ This simply returns the question to the person who is seeking information. However, phrase the question in a different way, ‘do you feel you need help?’ gets closer to the mark as the person should find it easier to say yes or no. The reality is often a bit different because our one question is actually more loaded than we might at first realize. Often, what people really want to know is:
do I need therapy?
what does it involve?
how long might it last?
will it work?
how much will it cost?
will it embarrass me or hurt me physically or emotionally?
can I stop once I’ve started?
I can’t tackle all these questions in one Sharepost, but I can at least try to address the main question, ‘do I need therapy for anxiety?’ Let’s start by focusing on the issue(s) that are affecting you. Broadly, they are likely to have involved one or more of the following for the past six months:
- You have been feeling extreme unease and apprehension about various situations and experiences.
- Despite knowing that your sensations are inhibiting your life, you are unable to reassure yourself.
- You have felt restless, tense, irritable and frequently tired.
- You’ve had one or more episodes of extreme fear or panic and you now have ongoing concerns that this will happen again and get worse.
- In some situations you feel trapped or extremely vulnerable. As a result you try to avoid these situations and this has resulted in some limitations on your behavior.
If any one or more of these statements looks familiar the chances are you will benefit from therapy. Of note is the time frame. Everyone is entitled to periods of anxiety or concerns and many of these will result from normal and everyday situations. In such cases, a little relaxation and some return to a reasonable work-life balance should help resolve the situation. If symptoms are ongoing, and especially if these have reached 6 months or more, the chances of them being a minor aberration that will pass naturally is much less likely.
It’s important to understand that symptoms of anxiety can sometimes result from physical problems. For this reason, your first port of call should be your family doctor, who will most likely run some blood tests. If physical symptoms can be discounted then its time for psychological therapy - which may (or may not) be some combination of medication and psychological therapy.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.