Men seek therapy for all sorts of reasons. Commonly, they go to therapy for help with mental health challenges like depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or eating disorders, to name just a few examples. But you don’t need to be experiencing a serious mental health problem for therapy to be right for you. Many guys go to therapy for help with things like:
- marital/relationship conflict
- lack of purpose/meaning in life
- medically unexplained or chronic pain
- important life transitions (e.g., becoming a dad for the first time, retirement)
- loss and grief
Generally, if you’re struggling, feeling stuck, feel like you want to sort out a specific problem (or your life) and don’t know where to start, therapy can help.
While medication can help reduce some symptoms of mental health conditions, therapy helps people understand themselves better and teaches them skills to address life’s challenges to not only recover from their symptoms, but also to live well. These skills are carried forward into life after therapy ends, helping people to feel more robust and resilient when bumps in life’s path come along in the future, making it less likely people will need further treatment.
There are a number of things to think about when deciding whether you’re ready for therapy. Generally, people consider therapy when they:
- Spend a lot of time thinking about or trying to manage the issue that’s bothering them
- Feel embarrassed and ashamed about how they’re feeling or functioning
- Start avoiding others in their life
- Feel like their quality of life is decreasing
- Have trouble functioning well at school, work, or in relationships
- Start developing bad habits to cope with the issue that’s bothering them
Below is a list of “red flags” that can be used as alerts that it might be time to seek therapy. It’s especially important to get help if you feel you’re not able to function at all or if you’re having thoughts about harming yourself or others.
1. Feeling overwhelmed.
- It’s not uncommon to occasionally feel overwhelmed with things going on in life, but if you feel like you never get a break from this feeling, as if you can’t rest or even breathe, it’s time to reach out to a therapist. Chronic stress can lead to serious physical and psychological health concerns.
2. Feeling exhausted or chronically fatigued.
- This physical symptom often results from or accompanies mental health issues. Exhaustion or fatigue can really mess with your sleep, and impair pretty much all aspects of a your functioning. It’s like having permanent jet-lag, and can make you feel useless, ineffective, and ashamed, setting you on a downward spiral of negativity.
3. Struggling with rage, anger, or resentment.
- Everyone feels angry at times. Even passing rage can happen and isn’t necessarily harmful. But when these feelings don’t pass, are extreme, or lead you to act out, you know it’s time to connect with a professional. Anger is a pretty common issue for guys and one of the reasons they seek therapy.
4. Having anxious or intrusive thoughts.
- It’s normal to worry about things from time to time, but when worry takes up a significant part of your day or causes physical (e.g., headaches or stomach aches) and other psychological (e.g., fear, panic) symptoms, therapy can help you deal with it.
5. Not caring any more.
- Losing interest in usual activities, the world around you, or life in general can indicate mental health issues like depression or anxiety. While it may not seem like a big issue, it puts people on a slippery slope, possibly sliding down to the point where they start thinking about ending life because they just don’t care about living any longer.
6. Feeling hopeless.
- Losing hope or motivation, or feeling as if you have no future, is an important sign to not overlook. Feeling hopeless from time to time, especially after a period of difficulty, isn’t uncommon. But when it persists, it may lead to thoughts of suicide. It’s really important to reach out to a therapist before hopelessness takes over your thoughts too much.
7. Social withdrawal.
- It’s really common for guys to withdraw from others when they’re not feeling or coping well. It’s a way that we try to protect ourselves from being exposed as being weak or not good enough. But that causes a vicious cycle in that our problems get worse and we feel that it’s even harder to reach out, making us feel more badly, and so on. A lot of guys like therapy because it’s private and confidential, so no one in their social network has to know they’re getting help if they don’t want others to know.
If you’re considering therapy, you may be thinking about possible drawbacks. Cost might be a concern for you, or you might worry about finding the time for it. You might also be aware that therapy can be difficult, knowing that you’ll be digging into issues that can be hard to talk about.
But if you’re willing to do the work and invest in yourself, therapy can be hugely rewarding. It’s a safe, private, judgment-free space where you can share anything with a trained professional who is there to help.
Here are a few benefits of therapy to keep in mind:
You’ll learn more about yourself.
- We all have a life story to tell, but sometimes it’s not clear how all the dots that make up our story are connected. What has made us who we are? What has shaped us to become who we are and how we feel today? Therapists listen to your story and help you make connections so that you can understand yourself better.
Therapy can help you achieve your goals.
- Sometimes we have clearly defined goals but don’t know how to achieve them. Other times, we don’t know what our goals are, other than wanting to get to a better place in life. Even if you aren’t sure of what your goals are, therapy can help you clarify them, set realistic steps, and develop the skills and strategies to meet them. Therapists will offer guidance or recommendations, but they don’t tell you what to do. Therapy empowers you to take action on your own.
Therapy can help you have more fulfilling relationships.
- Whether you’re single or in a relationship, therapy can help you address difficulties with relating to others, such as insecurity in relationships or difficulty trusting your partners. Similarly, therapy can help you develop better, more rewarding relationships with other important people in your life like family members, friends, or work colleagues.
You’re more likely to have better health.
- Our minds and bodies are intimately connected – what affects our minds will affect our bodies, and vice versa. Untreated mental health issues can impact our physical well-being. On the other hand, people in good emotional health will be better able to deal with physical health issues that might arise.
Therapy can lead to improvement in all areas of life.
- If you feel like something is holding you back from living the life you want for yourself, therapy can help you address this. When you aren’t sure what’s keeping you from making change, therapy can help you discover the answer.
Although some men are reluctant to start therapy, the vast majority who have feel that it’s one of the best things they’ve ever done for themselves. We owe it to ourselves to do what we can to live happy and healthy lives. Your future self will thank you for it.
Written by the HeadsUpGuys Team
- Combining lived experience, clinical practice, and research expertise. Reviewed and approved by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk - Professor and Director of the Psychotherapy Program at the Department of Psychiatry, The University of British Columbia.
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