Mental health means more than just the absence of a mental disorder. According to the National Mental Health Program, the majority of people are far from optimal mental health. Just like physical health is not a given and we pay attention to maintain it, we are significantly lagging behind in mental health. According to US research, a person has up to a 50% chance of experiencing a mental disorder at least once in their lifetime, while it is 40% for cancer or diabetes.
In 2017, every ninth resident of Slovakia suffered from one or more mental disorders, especially anxiety disorders. According to the initial epidemiological research, up to 67% of people with symptoms of depression, 80% of those addicted to alcohol, and 84% of those with anxiety do not seek treatment.
The most common concerns we have about seeing a psychologist / therapist
Although many of us are aware that we need to improve in caring for our mental health, the idea of seeking professional help can evoke mixed feelings of insecurity, tension, and fear of the unknown.
“People often avoid seeking a psychologist because of various fears that can overwhelm them to the point where they postpone or completely exclude sitting down with a specialist as a solution. At the same time, people are unsure of the severity of their difficulties. The obstacle then is that they often do not know where to start or are confused about whether to seek a psychologist, psychiatrist, or coaching,” describes clinical psychologist Karol Kleinmann based on his experience.
Concerns and myths about therapy are entirely natural and show that even people who already attend therapy have bravely dealt with them. They include the following:
- I don’t have any support around me – I’m alone in this.
- I’m afraid that I’ll be asked unpleasant questions and pushed to give the right answer.
- I’m afraid that I’ll be judged for who I am and how I do things/cope with things.
- I’m afraid that I’ll feel awkward and won’t be able to open up/relax.
- I imagined the therapist making furious notes while I lay on the couch crying.
- I was afraid that my friends and family wouldn’t understand.
- I imagined that talking about my trauma would only make things worse.
When to not hesitate and seek help
However, there are cases where seeking psychological sessions is highly recommended and postponing it can worsen the situation. These include:
- Strongly negative and intense experiences.
- Loss of a close person (such as the death of a partner, child, or important person).
- Loss of health – temporary or permanent (discovering a life-threatening diagnosis, loss of a limb, sight, or other ability that significantly affects daily functioning).
- Traumatizing experience with direct threat to life (serious car accident, victim of robbery/mugging, overcoming a serious illness/injury).
- Persistent feeling that something is not right (long-term tension, stress, nervousness, anxiety,…).
- Long-lasting relationship crises (when conflicts are not solvable and hinder daily functioning).
- If several people in my surroundings recommend professional help. If thoughts of suicide arise.