What problems can therapy be used for?

Therapy can be useful for many psychological problems. Therapy can be used for complex and severely distressing problems such as suffering from a psychosis where you hallucinate or hear voices, to life stresses such as feeling low due to work stress. In most cases, problems will be comorbid, where a number of problems coexist. Here are a brief description of the major categories of problems that people come to therapy for. This list is not exhaustive but indicative.

Life Stresses

Although a degree of stress is a healthy part of life, stress can build up incrementally and cause a variety of issues and symptoms such as difficulty sleeping or a general sense of feeling tired and run down. Specific stresses in life may include bereavement, relationship breakup, life-changing illness, work difficulties, financial difficulties, family troubles, children not leaving home. Stress does not have to be related to negative experience, positive events can be stressful too, and such as moving house or getting married.

Anxiety

People with anxiety respond to certain objects or situations with fear and dread, as well as with physical signs of anxiety or panic, such as a rapid heartbeat and sweating. Fears could range from phobias e.g. fear of spiders, to social anxiety to a general feeling of anxiety which may be a continuous experience of anxiety.

A particular anxiety called OCD is where people have constant thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines. The disturbing thoughts are called obsessions, and the rituals are called compulsions that try to cancel out those obsessions. An example is a person with an unreasonable fear of germs who constantly washes his or her hands.

Mood Issues

With mood related issues you may have persistent feelings of sadness, or fluctuations from extreme happiness to extreme sadness. Your moods may combine with other emotions such as anger, emptiness, numbness or tearfulness. The most common mood issues are depression and bipolar disorder.

Relationships

We are naturally very sociable. We enjoy the company of others and crave positive interactions and meaningful friendships. To some extent, good relationships are just as important for our survival as food and water, which can explain why when our relationships suffer, our health and happiness is also affected. Relationship issues include affairs and betrayal, abuse, sexual intimacy issues, communication and trust issues, separation and divorce, family issues and parenting conflicts. Relationship issues can be worked on in therapy either individually, in couples or within families.

Psychotic disorders

Psychotic or psychosis disorders involve distorted awareness and thinking. Two of the most common symptoms of psychotic disorders are hallucinations — the experience of images or sounds that are not real, such as hearing voices — and delusions, which are false fixed beliefs that the ill person accepts as true, despite evidence to the contrary. Schizophrenia is an example of a psychotic disorder. It is common for these types of issues to be treated with medication alongside therapy.

Addictions and Habits

Addictions can develop from many activities, including drinking alcohol, taking drugs, eating, stealing, gambling, gaming, social media, work, having sex and using the Internet. Often addictions begin as a result of how these activities make people feel emotionally and physically. These feelings can be pleasurable – triggering a powerful urge to carry out the activity again to recreate this ‘high’. This can develop into a repetitive cycle that becomes very hard to break, affecting personal responsibilities and relationships. Equally there are other habits with negative impacts, which can include self-harm, hair picking, excessive scratching or biting nails.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors involving weight and food. On the outside this may include being seriously underweight, bingeing and purging or bingeing by itself. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are the most common eating disorders which can involve underlying feelings of and cycles of stress, worry and shame.

Self-Worth, Identity and Attachment

Usually not separated out as an issue but manifested as part of other problems when you present in therapy. For example you may have low self-worth, which is an opinion you have about yourself and your acceptability and goodness. You may be struggling with identity issues associated with your sexuality, spirituality or cultural heritage and feel something is missing. Sometimes, with attachment issues, we can also struggle with feelings of abandonment and rejection if we’ve felt this in our lives which can then impair our relationships and make us feel fearful in relationships or even feel the need to control the other person for fear of rejection or loss.

Keyword: Attachment. In a psychological sense attachment issues occur as a result of specific patterns of ingrained behaviors in relation to carers. For example, a child who is not allowed to explore and feel a sense of safety may become insecure. Attachment theory believes some issues with relationships can carry forward into adult relationships, such as excessive distrust of a partner.

Personal Development & Growth

You can be on a journey exploring life, its meaning and your own relationship with the world as well as your own beliefs. It’s not uncommon for people to explore their own purpose, spirituality, life project, ageing and life stages as well as death anxiety. People also want to be the best person they can be whether it’s relationships, dealing with obstacles that give them a meaningful life or just being more self-aware of their own conflicts and issues.

Personality disorders

Sometimes people can be diagnosed with a Personality Disorder where people have extreme and inflexible personality traits that are distressing to the person and/or cause problems in work, school, or social relationships. This can interfere with a person’s ability to cope in life. Examples include antisocial personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder.

Psychosomatic Illnesses

You’ve heard it said that the mind and body are connected and your wellbeing is influenced by both. Although medical issues can’t be cured by therapy, the relationship you have with your illness and how it makes you feel, such as your stress about the issue, can be worked on in therapy. People come to therapy to manage medical issues such as cancer, pain, IBS and fertility. Many medical issues can have a stress associated element and thus therapy can help you manage this.

 

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