When Should I Start Seeing a Therapist? What to Know


Apr 5, 2023
When should I start seeing a therapist? If your mental health is getting in the way of schoolwork or relationships, it's likely time.

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High school and college should be full of learning and fun. You’re either prepping for college applications or are already there pursuing your degree. But even though you want to have a good time with friends and do your best work, the pressure of it all may become too much. The stress of balancing classes, extracurriculars, studying, and relationships might have you asking, “When should I start seeing a therapist?”

It’s up to the individual to decide when they should seek help for their mental health. But if you’re unsure what signs to look out for, here are a few that may indicate you should speak with your guidance counselor or on-campus mental health resources.

1. Classes Take Priority Over People

While you’re trying to get into college or are working on your degree, it can feel like getting all As is the most important thing in the world. While it’s true that good grades will help you get into the schools you love or earn scholarships, you must draw a line somewhere. Obsessing over your marks will only lead to heightened stress and dwindling relationships.

According to a survey of college students, loneliness influences students’ social, academic, and psychological well-being. Those effects can lead to increased problems with mental and physical health. You may need to start seeing a therapist if the thought of spending a night with friends or family makes you anxious because you’re away from schoolwork. Finding a healthy school/life balance is vital.

2. You Constantly Worry About Not Doing Well Enough

Students naturally want to do well in school — it can be an excellent path toward a great school or career. You may also be the first person in your family to try to go to or graduate from college. Those reasons are great motivators, but they can also put a lot of pressure on you. In fact, first-generation college students are at an increased risk of stress they may need therapy to manage.

Whether you feel the need to power through school or take academics very seriously, the anxiety might start to weigh on you. Your parents might pressure you or you may do it on your own. That need to prove yourself can make everything you do seem like it’s not enough. Even though you study for the best grades, anything less than a 100% may feel like a failure. Students asking “When should I start seeing a therapist?” should look into mental health resources if this sounds familiar.

3. Your Moods Are More Unstable

Anxiety and depression can do a number on your emotions. People with these mental health conditions often feel like they can’t talk to others about what they’re going through, leading to many pent-up feelings. Once someone tries to cheer you up or asks you to do something, you may be quick to fear or anger.

Shifting moods over small things are a significant sign of mental unwellness. It means you’ve probably bit off more than you can chew and are either on the verge of burnout or are already experiencing it. This may be a one-and-done experience you can manage by talking to friends or family, but if it’s starting to become a constant state, it’s time to ask for help.

4. Self-Care Is Nonexistent

Aside from hanging out with others and tacking your school duties, you must also take care of yourself. You can only keep running for so long before your body decides it’s time to rest. While staying up late and eating junk food is part of the high school and college experience, it becomes a problem when this is your go-to schedule.

You might find yourself eating quick meals, sleeping less, and passing on showers or brushing your teeth in favor of spending more time studying. Letting yourself go on like this can lower your self-esteem and further isolate you. You might even start to feel like you’re not worth taking care of, which is a large warning sign. Strongly consider speaking with a therapist if you can’t pull yourself away from school to take care of yourself once in a while.

Therapy Is an Excellent Tool

Students asking “When should I start seeing a therapist?” might worry about adding something else to their schedule and contemplate if it’s really worth it. If you’re experiencing these indicators frequently, booking an appointment is probably in your best interest. While it may be one more thing to do, therapy is a unique task that makes you feel miles better.

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