Monday, February 9, 2009

How do I know if I my symptoms warrant talking to a therapist?

Rather than continue to question yourself about the seriousness of your problems and whether they merit your seeking help, why not acknowledge that something is troubling you and that you deserve to seek the help you need. Schedule a session, pay attention to the way it feels to talk with your therapist, decide whether the session seemed helpful and then discuss with your therapist whether psychotherapy can provide you with the help you need.

Psychotherapy has the potential to help with many symptoms, some of which are listed below.

Some symptoms of depression are:

  • depressed mood
  • loss of interest or pleasure
  • sadness and tearfulness
  • significant increase or decrease in appetite and/or weight
  • insomnia or hypersomnia
  • fatigue or loss of energy
  • loss of motivation
  • indecisiveness
  • compromised ability to think or concentrate

Symptoms of generalized anxiety:

Excessive anxiety and worry that is difficult to control and includes three of the following six symptoms:

  • restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • being easily fatigued
  • difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • irritability
  • muscle tension
  • sleep disturbance

The focus of anxiety and worry is not confined to another psychological problem and causes significant distress or impairment in functioning.

Some symptoms of panic attacks:

A discrete period of intense fear or discomfort in which four or more of the following symptoms developed abruptly and reached a peak within 10 minutes:

  • palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • feeling of choking
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • nausea or abdominal distress
  • feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • feelings or unreality or being detached from oneself
  • fear of losing control or going crazy
  • fear of dying
  • numbness or tingling sensations, chills or hot flushes

For some, panic attacks may be followed by anxiety about being in places or situations where a panic attack might occur and from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing.

Syptoms of posttraumatic stress:

Experiencing, witnessing or being confronted with a traumatic event(s) involving actual or threatened death or serious injury or threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others and responding with intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in various ways:

  • recurrent and intrusive distressing images, dreams, thoughts, perceptions
  • a sense of reliving the experience
  • intense psychological distress and/or physiological reactivity when exposed to cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the trauma

Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness:

  • efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma
  • efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
  • inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
  • diminished interest in activities
  • feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • restricted range of feelings
  • sense of a foreshortened future

Persistent symptoms of increased arousal:

  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • irritability or outbursts of anger
  • difficulty concentrating
  • hypervigilance
  • exaggerated startle response

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