When and why you may need to see a counsellor
- Written by Innocent Lawrence Okima
Sometimes it's hard to know when you need help. But if you feel like you're struggling to cope with your daily life, are struggling with your emotions, or are feeling like you're not able to enjoy life, then it's time to reach out and ask for help because It's okay to not be okay.
"I don't have time to talk to a counsellor." "I can't afford a counsellor." "Counselling is for people with problems."
These all sound familiar to you, right?
I will start with a short story before I bring to light ten signs that show you need to see a counsellor. Early this year a friend of mine called Suubi (not real name) was recovering from a relationship issue originating from an extramarital affair his beautiful wife had with her workmate as Suubi worked upcountry.
As friends close to the couple, we all believed that the young couple’s relationship was back to its best and looked like they were enjoying their honeymoon all over again. However, in May we were all shocked by the news that Suubi had had a mental breakdown on a bus as he returned from work upcountry when he had the sound of a call waiting tune on one of the passenger’s phone.
Right now, you may be asking why a call waiting tune would lead to a mental breakdown. Going back to the relationship issue, Suubi once mentioned to one of his colleagues that when his wife was cheating, she was always talking to the other gentleman and every time Suubi called his wife from up country her phone was busy.
This meant that Ssubi associated the call waiting tune with cheating and every time he had that sound it brought strong emotions and depression to a point where he would handle it no more and had a mental breakdown.
I am happy to note that Suubi has received help from Oasis of Hope counselling centre and is now on his way to full recovery. This shows that you are just a trigger away from having a mental breakdown, Ssubi’s was a call waiting tune, and yours may be anything out there. If you're struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, counselling can help.
Counselling is not just for people with problems, it's for anyone who wants to live their best life and be there. How do you know that you need to see counsellor?
If you have had a personal issue you have shared with a friend which has been burdening you then, you need a counsellor. Your friend might listen to your problem and advice you, maybe even judge you wrongly yet a professional counsellor will provide you all the support you need while following ethical and professional guidelines.
• If you are having difficulty regulating your emotions, you surely need a counsellor. We all have emotions and feel sad, anxious, or angry at some point in our lives, it is important to pay attention to how often or how intensely you feel these emotions. Anger is often a part of depressive presentation.
• You aren't performing as effectively at work or school. A decrease in performance at work or school is a common sign among those struggling with psychological or emotional issues. Do not blame it on your boss or that person you call Sir or Madam. Mental health issues can impair attention, concentration, memory, energy, and can result in apathy which saps the enjoyment from work or even the drive to work and study.
• You're experiencing changes or disruptions in sleep or appetite. It does not matter if you sleep on Super, Vita, Beta or Euro form mattresses nor does it matter if you love your eggs boiled, fried, scrambled or even roasted, mental health issues can have a profound impact on our sleep and appetite. An individual who is anxious or in a manic state may have sleeplessness, while someone who is severely depressed might sleep all the time.
• You're struggling to build and maintain relationships even when you try to smile with everyone next to you or attend social gatherings. Our mental health can impact our relationships in a variety of ways—it might lead a person to pull back from those who are close to them, cause insecurity in a relationship, or it may lead to them heavily leaning on another person for emotional support
• You've experienced trauma. Those who have a history of physical or sexual abuse or some other trauma that they haven't fully recovered from can also hugely benefit from counselling. A survey report in 2018 by MGLSD on VAC in Uganda indicated that of 18–24-year-old Ugandans, one in three girls (35%) and one in six boys (17%) reported experiencing sexual violence during their childhoods.
• You no longer enjoy activities you typically did. People struggling with psychological or emotional issues often feel disconnected or alienated from life. Consequently, they lose interest in things they usually loved to do, whether it's hobbies or socializing. That is the reason I always check on my friends when they abruptly stop coming for our weekend football kick-about or the funny conversations on the different WhatsApp groups.
• You're grieving. Whether it's a divorce, significant breakup, or loss of a loved one, overcoming grief of any kind can be a long and painful process, especially if you've no one to share that emotional burden with. The ordeal is twice as difficult for those who experience significant losses in a short span of time which was very common during the COVID pandemic lockdown times.
• If your physical health has taken a hit it may be a sign you need to see a counsellor. We don't give mental health the same kind of attention as physical health and that is a huge mistake given that they are interconnected. Mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression have both direct and indirect effects on our physical health—direct because psychological issues affect the central nervous system which in turn has an impact on all other health systems.
• If you're using substances or sex to cope. When under mental or emotional stress, we turn to things that are rewarding, numbing, distracting or destructive to cope — which explains why substance use and sex are often used as coping mechanisms. In the short term, substance use can temporarily help alleviate unwanted feelings like hopelessness, anxiety, irritability, and negative thoughts. But in the longer run, it exacerbates these difficulties and often leads to abuse or dependence.
If you’re still reading this article and have managed to discover that you have at least one of the above ten signs then you need to see a counsellor, this doesn’t mean you're in a risk state or different from others but it means you want to live your life to the fullest and are willing to improve yourself.
About the author:
The author is a professional social worker specializing in counselling psychology