During my second semester of my freshman year in college, out of nowhere, my then boyfriend broke up with me. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I had lost my entire world. We had been together for two years. We worked together and shared all of the same friends. It was devastating. I didn’t know how I would go on. We had talked about getting married, having kids, and where our future would lead us. I was 18 years old and felt like I had hit rock bottom. The break-up moment was horrible. The next few weeks were worse. I would see him at work every day and that felt super weird. I didn’t know a life at work without him. Some of our joint friends had started to pick sides and unfortunately, it wasn’t mine. It felt like blow after blow. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to talk to my parents. I didn’t have any friends left. I didn’t have anyone to talk to.
Eventually, I sucked it up and told my parents I needed to talk with someone. A therapist. A counselor. Someone. I needed help. I was so unhappy. I rarely had moments throughout the day then where I wasn’t crying. I didn’t know how to get out of my own head. It seemed like there was such a stigma around seeking therapy, that I was hesitant about it at first. Luckily, I found a therapist who worked for me. I was able to work through my issues and come to the conclusion that my life could and would move on.
Mental health and therapy can be a touchy subject for some. It’s very personal. And with the New Year, so many of us find ourselves quoting, "New Year! New Me!" Shouldn’t this be the case for mental health as well? There is a lot of misinformation out there about mental health, so I decided to ask, Amara Kinney, BS, LSW, Director, Outpatient Behavioral Health at The Christ Hospital, for answers.
How do I know if I need to see a therapist or mental health professional? Amara: People seek out mental health treatment for a variety of reasons. There are a few keys things that may suggest that seeking additional help may be necessary. If you are not completing or there has been a decline in daily tasks such as grooming, showering, eating, sleeping, missing work or school or frequent tardiness this may suggest that your mental health is declining. Also there are some other signs to look out for such as isolating, a decrease in interest in things that you normally like doing, extreme heightened energy, increased irritability, or excessive worry or anxiety. These are just to name a few.
Does asking yourself the question: "Do I need to see a therapist?" mean that I need to see one?
Amara: This does not necessarily mean you need to see a therapist, however if you feel that seeking out a therapist could be beneficial there is no harm in doing so and then assessing whether this is helping decrease your symptoms.
How do I even find a therapist?
There are many ways to find licensed therapists or counselors. I always suggest to first contact your insurance and request a list of providers in your area. This way you are sure that they are covered on your insurance plan. Another reputable source to find a provider is Psychology Today
How will I know if it's the right therapist for me?
Amara: Most will say, "you will just know", however there are a few key components to a good therapist. They will have the ability to make you feel safe in your sessions; you are able to be vulnerable and discuss difficult topics without fear of judgment, you trust them with information, and the symptoms you were experiencing are decreasing throughout the duration of your sessions.
Everyone has anxiety in their life, right? What is the distinction between everyday anxiety and having an anxiety problem?
Amara: Everyone does experience some symptoms of anxiety or worry throughout life. The concern is when the anxiety or worry has increased to the point of hindrance and the worry is also paired with several physical and cognitive symptoms. Excessive worry is worrying even when there is no specific threat present or when the worry is disproportionate to the actual risk. Some of the additional symptoms may include restlessness, fatigue, impaired concentration, irritability, or difficulty sleeping.
What are some treatments for anxiety?
Amara: A good treatment option is a form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy which can be offered in an individual or group setting. This form of treatment helps to identify and manage the factors that contribute to the anxiety. There are also some holistic treatment modalities such as meditation, yoga or acupuncture.
What is a panic attack? How do I know that I am having one?
Amara: A panic attack is when you have a sudden onset of feelings of intense fear and apprehension along with disabling anxiety symptoms. These symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, heart racing, shaking, nausea, dizziness, hyperventilation, feelings of impending doom or suicidal ideation. This can last anywhere from a few seconds to hours.
Are there simple exercises I can do to help with anxiety and panic?
Amara: There are some coping skills that you can use to decrease the symptoms of anxiety or a panic attack. Exercises as deep belly breathing, taking a walk/run, switching tasks, counting backwards, or meditation.
It’s not always easy to have the conversation with others or yourself that you need to see someone, but your mental health should never be ignored. Mental health evaluations are important and can help tremendously. Whether it’s a day-to-day task you’re struggling with completing, or you're going through a break up, like me; it does feels better to talk with someone. Check out more information on the mental health programs available at The Christ Hospital.