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  • Writer's picturePhilip Lewis, MA, AMFT

Three Reasons It May Be Time to Seek Help

Updated: Jul 12

By Philip Lewis, MA, AMFT

Let’s be honest, sometimes life just sucks!

Depressed Man with head in hand

The demands of family, work, and friends can rapidly pile up. Then the stress starts spiking again. Soon, nothing is going right, you feel like life is spinning out of control, and it’s a complete mystery how everything got so bad so quickly.

As a therapist in West Hollywood, I know how frightening it can be when your world is stuck in a downward spiral. Some cannot begin to process all the feelings, or make sense of what went wrong without guidance. In my therapy practice I help real people with real problems seek real relief so they can get back to the fulfilling lives they deserve.

It can seem impossible to tell whether emotional distress is a stressful situation you might be able to handle on your own, or a serious mental health issue that requires consultation with a mental-health professional. Below are three tips to determine when it's time to seek help.

Number 1 - Your Emotions Are Running (Ruining?) Your Life

Left untreated, mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and prolonged work stress can profoundly impair mood, motivation, and mental functioning, making it difficult even to tolerate minor stressors or be reasonably productive at work. Mental illness can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, acne, eczema, and gastrointestinal issues (“IBS”) (Ferguson, 2020). Ultimately, no one handles mental in exactly the same way. If any of the following sound familiar, it may be time to reach out for help:

  • Intense sadness, anxiety, etc. lasts for weeks, maybe months, and is getting worse.

  • You’re trying harder, but still fall hopelessly behind everyone else at work.

  • You engage in high-risk activities just to feel a little bit better.

  • You’re angry at everyone and everything all the time.

  • You always feel sick, but doctors say “there’s nothing wrong.”

Number 2 - Your "Baggage" is Too Heavy

The emotional pain of a past dating disaster, relationship breakup, or job loss typically leaves little lasting impact on your mental well-being. Not so with intense, overwhelming experiences like childhood abuse or domestic violence. The lasting psychological effects of past trauma can be devastating. Here are some indications you might need help to process unresolved past emotional baggage:

People say you’re too emotional. If your reactions to current stressful situations are consistently out of proportion to what might reasonably be expected, it’s possible you are unconsciously being influenced by unresolved past anger about an unrelated person. We can misinterpret the actual severity of a present threat based on dysfunctional patterns constructed to help us cope with past trauma. For example, if you developed fear and mistrust because of abusive parents growing up, later you may find yourself inexplicably distrusting other authority figures (e.g., bosses) whether or not those people are personally untrustworthy.

Your relationships always seem problematic. Unresolved adverse childhood experiences can lead adults to repeat destructive patterns in their future relationships. So, for instance, some people are always at war with someone – family, friends … random store clerks. Or they constantly end up choosing friends or partners who make them feel dominated, rejected, and/or ignored.

It's hard to make sense of emotions. Trauma can seriously impair your ability to feel, understand, and manage difficult thoughts and emotions (Van der Kolk, 2014).

Number 3 - You Feel Like Giving Up

People experiencing intense hopelessness or unbearable pain sometimes can consider taking their own life to stop the. While “suicidal ideation” can be unsettling, it is actually common. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports in 2020, there were 12.2 million adults who “seriously thought about suicide.” (CDC, n.d.). While infrequent suicidal thoughts may just be an understandable mental fantasy about how to escape the extreme mental distress of a seemingly impossible situation, they should be taken seriously. It is not always obvious when someone is actively suicidal. The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides a list of possible warning signs (Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, n.d.). If you feel you might be suicidal, seek help immediately.


If you relate to any of the above, it may be time to seek support. As a therapist near you in West Hollywood, I have been specially trained to help clients identify the underlying causes of psychological symptoms, and explore possible ways to overcome – or at least lessen – the intensity of their emotional pain.

© Philip Lewis (2023)


CDC. (n.d.). Suicide Data and Statistics.

Ferguson, S. (2020). Yes, Mental Illness Can Cause Physical Symptoms - Here’s Why.

Mental Health America. (n.d.). The State of Mental Health In America.

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. (n.d.). We Can All Prevent Suicide.

Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma.

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