It seems long gone are the days when seeing a therapist was taboo. And few could argue that isn’t a wildly positive note about society’s growing understanding and compassion toward mental health. While empathy plays a large role in that, it can’t be denied that science and research fuels much of our support for mental health issues; we understand the sociological triggers and impacts of it and are constantly developing our understanding of the biological aspects of mental health, no longer treating things like depression or anxiety as “weak.”
With all that in mind, it’s easier to understand how more and more people are seeking the help of mental health professionals to sort through the conundrums of daily life. Whether it’s diagnosed depression, coping with stress, or sorting our relationship woes, therapy is woven into the personal lives of more people than ever before.
And wouldn’t you be curious what the most often discussed topics are? Recently, HuffPost did us the service of surveying experts on the most prominent therapy topics in 2018, without asking those experts to divulge the details of their patients’ sessions. This is more or less a “Top Ten” list of general topics, and if nothing else, should serve as a helpful tool for people to see that maybe they’re not alone in their own stresses and worries of daily life.
Anxiety is a perfectly healthy and normal emotion, characterized by the body’s natural response to stress when worrying about future events. When anxiety becomes prominent and frequent, it can be a diagnosed disorder that leads to excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry.
At its most intense, panic attacks can result from extreme anxiety. This is characterized by many physical symptoms triggered by extreme stress. “When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying,” says the Mayo Clinic.
This one probably isn’t a surprise to anybody. According to Lauren M. Gross, a psychologist at Elev8 MD Wellness Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, a common struggle is overcoming the pressure of “doing it all” — balancing work and personal lives. This “often leads to stress, depression, anxiety and can cause relationships issues,” Gross says.
According to the APA, 69 percent of people admit to experiencing significant stress over the nation’s future.
“Many people found their anxiety symptoms harder to manage this year due to political stress,” said Anna Poss, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois. “One of the best things you can do for your mental health is limit your screen time. Give yourself a break from the news and social media to focus instead on self-care.”
Staying tuned in to current events has already told you that more and more people are opening up about sexual assault on a public level, which should leave no surprises that more conversations about sexual assault are also happening with mental health professionals.
And according to Kelifern Pomeranz, a clinical psychologist in California, those conversations are from both the perspectives of those that have been assaulted as well as people taking time to reflect on whether or not they’ve been the perpetrators in the past.
We spend a lot of time on our devices. Smartphones, laptops, streaming services, and social media take up our entire days without notice much of the time, so of course, they are going to influence us in many ways.
“I encourage my clients to evaluate how much time or energy they are putting into these things, what the return is, and how it relates to their overall goals in life,” says Darin Bergen, a psychologist in Portland, Oregon. “When they do this, some find that there’s nothing wrong with their engagement in social media or Netflix, while others find that it is holding them back from the goals they want to accomplish.
Comparisons to Others
Here is another subject heavily influenced by the times and technology. The prevalence of social media has undoubtedly influenced our stress and anxiety through comparisons to the lives others broadcast. According to Brie Shelly, a licensed mental health counselor and coach with Boston’s Activate Wellness Solutions, Facebook and Instagram heavily influence body image concerns as well as triggering depression and anxiety in many.
Her first solution for battling this is to be aware of the feeds and platforms that most often lead to feeling poorly about yourself and having the awareness to unfollow those accounts, delete profiles, or limit time on those platforms.
Another topic that shouldn't be a surprise on this list, as personal relationships are an impactful thread in all our lives. Fran Walfish, a child, couple, and family psychologist in Beverly Hills stresses the importance of communication skills when navigating conflict within relationships.
Loss of loved ones is nothing new and as we all know, is a fact of life. What has changed and evolved, however, is how we manage that grief. Perhaps this subject making the list for 2018 mirrors our own growth in using the support and help of mental health professionals overall.
Our awareness of mass shootings in America is only growing. Statistically, they’re being found to become more prominent with time and news coverage of those events is also shaping our awareness of them on a personal level. According to Ginger Poag, a trauma therapist with Brentwood Wellness Counseling in Brentwood, Tennessee, this has led to a growing fear of mass shootings. “Clients are bringing up the topic of mass shootings more and more because the news coverage has increased at an exponential rate,” she says. Paug points out that this fear shows a deeper challenge of personal safety, suggesting that the best way to cope with such anxiety is to limit social media usage and news coverage after such events. She also suggests those are times to steer clear of interactions and conversations with people who share your existing feelings on related topics such as gun control, as those conversations can only heighten existing fears no matter which side of the debate you land on.