Is your problem one for a night at home with a box of tissues, or is it time to call the professionals?

About 10% of us suffer from psychological problems to a degree that warrants professional help.

Going to a therapist isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t mean that you’re crazy. Rather, it shows that you realise help is available and that someone else’s perspective and advice could help you change from dysfunctional to functional. Here’s a general rule: when you find you can’t cope with everyday tasks – in other words, your functioning at work, at home and with friends is being affected – and things do not get better, it’s advisable to seek professional help. Don’t wait until you feel desperate.


Having a traumatic experience

You might be having trouble returning to normality after a bereavement or the end of a long-term relationship, for example. You could be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (see below), which can set in after being exposed to a traumatic event – a hijacking or rape, for instance – whether by experiencing it, witnessing it or sometimes merely reading or hearing about it.

Getting stuck in a self-destructive pattern

Perhaps you’ve always attracted abusive partners or you tend to blame your parents for every setback in your life, and want to break out of the habit.

Experiencing mood changes

You find you’re feeling unusually down, uninterested in your work, hobbies, appearance and friends, you’re irritable or anxious for no apparent reason, or you’re feeling that life is no longer worth the effort.

Experiencing behavioural changes

Your sleeping or eating patterns are disturbed or your alcohol or drug use is out of control. Or you might have the beginnings of a behavioural problem such as anorexia or obsessive compulsive disorder, and you want to sort it out before it progresses further.

Experiencing unexplained bodily changes

You might decide to see a therapist if you’re suffering from strange aches and pains that won’t go away, even with conventional medical treatment.

Seeing or hearing things

You’re hearing or seeing things no-one else can, and you aren’t able to concentrate at college or work.

Wanting to explore personal growth

Going into therapy when you’re not at a crisis point can help you discover more about who you are, explore where you come from, and define your goals and needs. In this form of ‘growth counselling’, a psychologist acts as your mentor.

Having relationship or sexual problems

You’re in a committed relationship and want to understand and solve emotional or sexual issues that keep cropping up.



Spells of the blues are normal, but when feeling low becomes your permanent state of mind, you could be experiencing clinical depression or post-traumatic stress disorder and should get professional help.


The signs of clinical depression

This can be caused by a variety of factors, including a genetic predisposition to depression, emotional sensitivity and life experience. It’s characterised by changes in

Mood: you feel low, emotionally dead and unable to feel positive, even when happy things are happening around you.

Physical functioning: your appetite, sleep patterns, sex drive and energy levels are upset.

Thinking: your memory, attention span and decision-making ability are altered and your thoughts become fixed on negative subjects such as death, guilt and unhappy memories.