Mental Health: The Benefits of Therapy
May is Mental Health Month, and it’s a good time to discuss the simple fact that mental health is just as important as physical health. Recently, there has been more public awareness regarding mental health issues and an attempt to put an end to the stigma surrounding mental illness. Every year, about 42.5 million American adults (or 18.2 percent of the total adult population in the United States) suffers from some mental illness. With numbers like this, there is no doubt that we could all benefit from a regular visit with a psychologist to ensure that our mental and emotional health are taken care of. Mental Health Month is as good a time as any to be proactive about our mental health and assess the ways that we deal with daily stressors, difficult situations, and the emotionally painful parts of life.
Research has shown that verbalizing feelings can have a significant therapeutic effect on the brain. There are a lot of benefits associated with therapy, and therapy is not just an activity for those with mental illnesses. Everyone can benefit from therapy; we all go to the doctor’s for regular checkups, so why wouldn’t we see a psychologist regularly to keep our minds healthy? According to Dr. David Spiegel, M.D., associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, everyone should be open to seeking professional guidance when it comes to their emotional health. “We’re social creatures, fundamentally, so talking to people can be a real source of support and help,” Speigel says. “But it won’t happen if you don’t give it a try.” In honor of Mental Health Month, here are a few benefits of therapy and some good reasons to give it a try:
Building resilience against stress is a big benefit of therapy. Many people have a misconception that therapy is only for those who have suffered a trauma or a life-altering loss. However, studies show that therapy is a good way to handle everyday stress. Therapists are trained professionals who can talk us through our thought patterns and emotions to help us gain an understanding of our inward lives and take control of what goes on in our minds.
Therapy helps you understand yourself, but it also gives you an understanding of others. Talking through any negative thoughts that we may have and understanding their sources gives us the tools to work through pain or unhappiness, but it also helps us recognize pain in others. The process of working through our thoughts and emotions can help foster empathy and respect for others because it helps us see that mental and emotional pain can be a part of the human struggle.
This day and age, a lot of us suffer from loneliness. Though we are more connected by technology than we ever have been in the past, we have also become more detached in certain ways. This paradox can create feelings of isolation and even inferiority, especially considering the hyper curated versions of people’s lives that are posted on the internet and social media. A study performed by Ottawa Public Health found that heavy social media users were more likely to report having poor mental health, psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression), suicidal thoughts and unmet mental health needs. Therapy can help a person sort through the feelings that often arise as a result of life in a fast-paced, social media obsessed world. Therapy helps you realize that you aren’t alone in these struggles, and It’s also comforting just to know that you have a built-in support structure.
While attending therapy regularly for mental and emotional reasons, many people notice that physical symptoms are often treated as well. Stress, depression, and anxiety can wreak havoc on a person’s sleep habits and their general energy levels. Psychologist Marian Margulies states, “There have been some studies that show that many physical ailments are ameliorated when someone engages in therapy.” Talking through your issues with a trained professional is a good way to untangle complicated emotions and lighten the burden you may be carrying. Since our bodies and minds are connected, it makes sense that the relief of therapy will have a positive effect on both.
People are starting to open up more about their personal struggles and mental health issues. The stigma seems seems to be fading, if slowly. If you feel therapy would benefit you, we hope that you see these possible benefits as a reason to go for it.