How might I know I need help?

It's not always easy to figure out when it's time to seek out a therapist or additional help. Here are a few common signs to watch out for.

By Dr Mohamed Zaki 1st April 2020

Photo by Lily Banse

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Dr Mohamed Zaki

Head of Research


We all go through periods of sadness, stress and anxiety from time to time. Sometimes those periods are brought on by external factors beyond our control and that affect us in ways that become difficult for us to cope with on our own. While at other times, we might feel somewhat ‘out of sorts’ without being able to link how we’re feeling to any particular stressors or external influences. 

The most important thing to remember if you’re going through a particularly difficult time is that you are not alone! A lot of people experience difficulties with their mental health at one point or another during their lives. Sadly, due to persistent homophobia, prejudice, discrimination and stigmatization LGBTQ+ persons tend to suffer disproportionately from mental health issues and concerns, such as depression and anxiety. That said, it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether certain feelings and emotions are the result of natural fluctuations in mood or if they’re indicative of deeper issues that need to be addressed. 

While the way we handle and manage our mental health is incredibly personal and idiosyncratic there are some common signs that usually mean that we would benefit from professional support. Symptoms usually associated with mental and/or emotional hardship are, disproportionate feelings of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, apathy and/or fatigue. You should consider speaking with a therapist if;

The way you’re feeling negatively impacts your quality of life. The best litmus test for assessing whether a particular issue is causing you undue and worrying difficulty is to ask yourself if it is affecting your ability to enjoy your life in a regular and sustained way. There are completely natural fluctuations in mood that shouldn’t be cause for particular concern but if you find that your thoughts and emotions regularly impede your enjoyment of your day to day life then it would be good for you to identify and address the root causes of those feelings in a safe, therapeutic environment.

The way you’re feeling interferes with your work and/or studies. When we’re not feeling at our best mentally and emotionally, we usually find it more difficult to deal with and handle regular tasks and responsibilities. This difficulty can manifest itself in trouble concentrating, loss of motivation and/or increased absence from work or school/university.

The way you’re feeling negatively impacts your social relationships. Our emotional and mental wellbeing tends to directly impact those around us and how we relate to important people in our lives, such as partners, friends and family. If you find that the way you’re feeling is causing you to withdraw or isolate yourself from your loved ones, or find that it has altered the way you interact with them then it might be the time to seriously consider therapy. 

You’ve developed unhealthy coping methods. Drastic changes in your eating habits, alcohol and/or drug use and social activities could mean that you’re using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with difficulties without directly addressing the root causes of your emotional and/or mental distress. That’s not to say that partaking in certain activities within moderation is unhealthy but using them in lieu of other strategies for handling mental health issues is cause for concern. 

You’re noticing a change in your overall health. Our bodies often reflect the state of our mental and emotional wellbeing. If you find that you’re suffering from increased fatigue, headaches, aches and pain, tightness in your chest or any other unusual and unexplained physical symptoms then it would be good to explore how your mental health might be affecting you physically. 

Others around you have expressed concern for your wellbeing. If someone close to you expresses worry about your emotional wellbeing please take their concern seriously. Sometimes those who love and care about us have piercingly accurate insights into our overall wellbeing, they may notice alarming changes in behaviour or outlook that could be indicative of mental and/or emotional distress. 

These rough guidelines are by no means exhaustive, and the person most able to realise when something is amiss is yourself. It’s important to accept no compromises when it comes to your emotional and mental health. Sadly, society sometimes places too much importance on ‘stoicism’ and ‘strength’ and equates expressions of vulnerability with ‘weakness’, but the reality is that it takes courage and strength to face up to our own struggles and address them head on.