Making the Decision to Seek Help
People of all ages (including adolscents and children) and with all types of difficulties can benefit from psychotherapy and counseling. While research (by the APA) shows 84% of Americans realize that good mental health is important to overall health and well-being, nearly 50% of Americans don’t know when it’s appropriate to seek professional help.
Below are some signs to look for in yourself, or your teens / adolescents, or your younger children that may help you decide whether to seek help. If you are the mother of a new baby or of any children, here are some guidelines about seeking help.
If you are experiencing anything described on this list below and it is severe enough to interfere with your ability to function well (in your work, relationship, family and social life) it may be time for you to seek help:
* life changes and transitions, such as retirement, marriage, remarriage or the birth/ adoption of a child
* separation and divorce
* feelings of helplessness and pessimism
* excessive anger or irritability directed at others
* low self-esteem
* loss of interest in sex
* substance abuse or dependence in oneself or in one’s family members
* anxiety or panic attacks, things feeling out of control
* dissatisfaction with work life
* decreased energy and enthusiasm for life
* patterns of repeating the same relationship difficulties over time
* stress in the workplace
* fatigue, feeling tired
* social withdrawal
* emotional numbing
* repeated arguments with family members
* blaming yourself for your problems, feeling guilty
* problems with food, weight, and/or feeling unattractive
* sleep problems (sleeping all the time, or not able to sleep)
* crying easily and more than usual
* losing pleasure in activites you used to enjoy
Should My Child See a Therapist?
Significant life events — such as the death of a family member, friend, or pet; divorce or a move; abuse; trauma; a parent leaving on military deployment; or a major illness in the family — can cause stress that might lead to problems with behavior, mood, sleep, appetite, and academic or social functioning.
In some cases, it’s not as clear what’s caused a child to suddenly seem withdrawn, worried, stressed, sulky, or tearful. But if you feel your child might have an emotional or behavioral problem or needs help coping with a difficult life event, trust your instincts.
Signs that your child may benefit from seeing a psychologist or licensed therapist include:
- developmental delay in speech, language, or toilet training
- learning or attention problems (such as ADHD)
- behavioral problems (such as excessive anger, acting out, bedwetting or eating disorders)
- a significant drop in grades, particularly if your child normally maintains high grades
- episodes of sadness, tearfulness, or depression
- social withdrawal or isolation
- being the victim of bullying or bullying other children
- decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities
- overly aggressive behavior (such as biting, kicking, or hitting)
- sudden changes in appetite (particularly in adolescents)
- insomnia or increased sleepiness
- excessive school absenteeism or tardiness
- mood swings (e.g., happy one minute, upset the next)
- development of or an increase in physical complaints (such as headache, stomachache, or not feeling well) despite a normal physical exam by your doctor
- management of a serious, acute, or chronic illness
- signs of alcohol, drug, or other substance use (such as solvents or prescription drug abuse)
- problems in transitions (following separation, divorce, or relocation)
- bereavement issues
- custody evaluations
- therapy following sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or other traumatic events
Kids who aren’t yet school-age could benefit from seeing a developmental or clinical psychologist if there’s a significant delay in achieving developmental milestones such as walking, talking, and potty training, and if there are concerns regarding autism or other developmental disorders.
It’s also helpful to speak to caregivers and teachers who interact regularly with your child. Is your child paying attention in class and turning in assignments on time? What’s his or her behavior like at recess and with peers? Gather as much information as possible to determine the best course of action.
Discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor, who can offer perspective and evaluate your child to rule out any medical conditions that could be having an effect. The doctor also may be able to refer you to a qualified therapist for the help your child needs. (Source: Kids health.org )
Troubling signs Teens
It is important to remember that the behavior of depressed children and teenagers may differ from the behavior of depressed adults. The characteristics vary, with most children and teens having additional psychiatric disorders, such as behavior disorders or substance abuse.
Mental health professionals advise parents to be aware of signs of depression in their teens.
Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying
Teens may show their pervasive sadness by wearing black clothes, writing poetry with morbid themes, or having a preoccupation with music that has nihilistic themes. They may cry for no apparent reason.
Teens may feel that life is not worth living or worth the effort to even maintain their appearance or hygiene. They may believe that a negative situation will never change and be pessimistic about their future.
Decreased interest in activities; or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
Teens may become apathetic and drop out of clubs, sports, and other activities they once enjoyed. Not much seems fun anymore to the depressed teen.
Persistent boredom; low energy
Lack of motivation and lowered energy level is reflected by missed classes or not going to school. A drop in grade averages can be equated with loss of concentration and slowed thinking.
Social isolation, poor communication
There is a lack of connection with friends and family. Teens may avoid family gatherings and events. Teens who used to spend a lot of time with friends may now spend most of their time alone and without interests. Teens may not share their feelings with others, believing that they are alone in the world and no one is listening to them or even cares about them.
Low self esteem and guilt
Teens may assume blame for negative events or circumstances. They may feel like a failure and have negative views about their competence and self-worth. They feel as if they are not “good enough.”
Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
Believing that they are unworthy, depressed teens become even more depressed with every supposed rejection or perceived lack of success.
Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
Depressed teens are often irritable, taking out most of their anger on their family. They may attack others by being critical, sarcastic, or abusive. They may feel they must reject their family before their family rejects them.
Difficulty with relationships
Frequent complaints of physical illnesses, such as headaches and stomachaches
Teens may complain about lightheadedness or dizziness, being nauseated, and back pain. Other common complaints include headaches, stomachaches, vomiting, and menstrual problems.
Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
Children and teens who cause trouble at home or at school may actually be depressed but not know it. Because the child may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that the behavior problem is a sign of depression.
Teens may have trouble concentrating on schoolwork, following a conversation, or even watching television.
A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
Sleep disturbance may show up as all-night television watching, difficulty in getting up for school, or sleeping during the day. Loss of appetite may become anorexia or bulimia. Eating too much may result in weight gain and obesity.
Talk of or efforts to run away from home
Running away is usually a cry for help. This may be the first time the parents realize that their child has a problem and needs help.
Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior
Teens who are depressed may say they want to be dead or may talk about suicide. Depressed children and teens are at increased risk for committing suicide. If a child or teen says, “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” always take the statement seriously and seek evaluation from a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional. People often feel uncomfortable talking about death. However, asking whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than “putting thoughts in the child’s head,” such a question will provide assurance that somebody cares and will give the young person the chance to talk about problems.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Depressed teens may abuse alcohol or other drugs as a way to feel better.
Teens who have difficulty talking about their feelings may show their emotional tension, physical discomfort, emotional pain, and low self-esteem with self-injurious behaviors, such as cutting (Source: http://www.focusas.com/Depression.html).
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