Fact: life isn’t always smooth sailing. At any moment, curve balls can fly in out of nowhere and leave us reeling.
“Everyone struggles from time to time. One of my favourite phrases is, ‘Smile at everyone, because everyone is fighting their own personal battle’,” says Dr Janine Clarke, psychologist at Mend Psychology and The Sydney ACT Centre.
Often, these struggles are often short-lived and can be managed without having a significant impact on your psychological, social and emotional wellbeing.
However, Dr Clarke says we sometimes encounter problems that require extra help from a professional — and it’s important to know when and where to seek it.
7 telltale signs
1. Your distress isn’t going away.
If a problem causes you distress that persists for longer than a couple of weeks, it might be a sign professional help would be beneficial.
“Different psychological diagnoses require symptoms to be present for different periods of time. For example, depressive symptoms need to have been persistent for two weeks or more for a depression diagnosis to be given,” she explains.
2. It’s affecting how you normally function.
Persistent distress can impair your ability to perform your various daily duties, whether that be as a parent, friend, employee or team member. This might be especially evident in the workplace — Dr Clarke says depression and stress reduce productivity and are leading causes of employee absenteeism.
3. Your usual coping strategies aren't working.
There's no 'one size fits all' approach to dealing with stress or challenges in life. However, not all coping strategies are effective or good for you — and they can be a telltale sign you need to seek professional help.
"Are you coping by drinking alcohol, or excessive spending or exercise or food? Or withdrawing socially? Ask yourself honestly, 'Are these coping mechanisms helping me?' And if they're not, and your daily functioning is being interrupted, that's the time to go and get some help," says Francesca Harvey, psychologist and founder of Solution Psychology Centre.