We do a lot to care for our bodies (or at least, we try to). We pay attention to what we eat, we exercise, we take vitamins, we take over-the-counter and prescription medicines, we go to the hospital when we’re hurt and sick, and we see our primary care physician for regular check-ups. All of that is very important, and it’s great that so many people understand that their bodies require real care.
Unfortunately, this same sense of self-care isn’t always felt in the realm of mental health. Many of us who cheerfully head to a doctor for regular check-ups — even when we’re not sick — fail to pay regular visits to mental health professionals.
Why don’t we go to therapy?
While some of us are proactive about our mental health, many of us fail to be as careful with our minds as we are with our bodies. That has a lot to do with the outdated and unfounded stigma surrounding mental health treatment. Some of us think of therapy as being for “crazy” people, but that’s all wrong. “Crazy” is a derogatory, rude and clumsy term, and it’s highly inaccurate for those with common mental health issues, which can be moderate or even mild. Despite this hurtful stigma, there’s nothing binary about mental health. And thinking of therapy in this way ignores the ways in which visits to a therapist can be part of a proactive mental healthcare strategy.
The reality is that therapy is a powerful way to cope with mental health issues that range from severe to so mild as to be undiagnosable, explain the experts. You don’t need to have a mental health condition to go to therapy. Caring for and checking in on your mental health regularly — just as you would do for your physical health — is a great way to stay mentally healthy and grow as a person, a family member, a romantic partner, and a member of your community.
Therapy can help you understand your own behaviors
How often have you thought that someone seems oblivious to their own actions, especially when they’re upsetting or frustrating? Sometimes, we just don’t realize that our actions and attitudes are negatively affecting others. Even if we are self-reflective, we may be misidentifying the traits and actions that are damaging ourselves and others. It’s just human nature: this kind of introspection and analysis is hard to do at all, much less objectively or accurately.
In therapy, we work with mental health professionals to better understand our own behaviors, motivations, attitudes, and impact on others and ourselves. Understanding why we do and think certain things can make us better people and strengthen our relationships.
Therapy can give you coping strategies
Mental health issues are more common than you might think. Anxiety and depression are rampant in our country, and many who suffer from these issues are undiagnosed. And even if you don’t think you have a diagnosable condition, you should consider therapy. It may be that you have an issue you’re not identifying. If that’s not the case, therapy can still help you better handle moments of sadness, emptiness, and anxiety that you feel in your life. After all, everyone has those sorts of feelings from time to time, not just those with diagnosable anxiety and depression disorders.
There may not be “cured” for many mental health issues, but there are ways to treat them. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help reduce symptoms. And all sorts of therapists can suggest strategies for coping with symptoms and remaining as comfortable, happy, and productive as possible under the circumstances. Working with your therapist to find the right strategies for you can change your life. You’ll be able to handle the issues in your life right now and better equipped to handle ones that may not have yet emerged.
Therapy can improve your relationships
Analyzing our own behaviors and treating the symptoms of our mental health issues can make us more pleasant to be around. That can improve our relationships with our friends, our families, and our romantic partners.
Your relationships may also benefit from the outlet that therapy gives you. Many of the same people who avoid therapy are unknowingly relying on loved ones for the kind of venting and strategizing that should be done with a professional. That can be exhausting and unfair for our loved ones. When we choose therapy, we can have these conversations in the right environment and enjoy relationships that are less taxing for others.
And therapy isn’t just for individuals. You can come to therapy with family members and romantic partners. Just make sure you talk to your therapist ahead of time or head to a therapist who specializes in group, family, or couples therapy.