Psychoanalysis, otherwise known as “talk therapy,” is more useful than we may think. Due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, most individuals struggling with family, financial or personal stressors do not seek the help that they need. Most also believe that therapy is a last resort, used by people who are seriously struggling with major depression, obsessive-compulsive or bipolar disorders, which are considered to be more serious than minor life events.
But seemingly minor life events may have serious effects on our cognitive functioning, our memories, and our general well-being. For example, someone experiencing stress due to his school workload may feel overwhelmed and unable to balance classes, assignments, exams and extracurricular activities. Without an outlet, this may lead to serious health issues, including insomnia, ulcers, panic attacks, overwhelming levels of anxiety, strokes, heart attacks and depression (Sapolsky, 2004).
Daniele Trevisani identified six types of stress:
Each type of stress has different causes and effects, and each is easy to manage when approached appropriately. For instance, using day planners, journals and calendars can ease lack-of-planning stress. Becoming more organized will remove the stress caused by putting things off to the last minute.
Therapy can significantly relieve stress and help you avoid more serious mental illnesses. This is particularly true of psycho-energetic stress (which encapsulates the other five), caused by emotional issues, mental rumination, feelings of loneliness, a lack of social acceptance, and forced social relationships (Trevisani, 2009). These are serious issues that may be difficult to face alone.
Consider an individual who has recently changed careers and feels anxiety when he or she is forced into social events at work. He or she may find it difficult to make friends and be ignored and left alone, engendering a sense of loneliness. Anxiety sets in every day before work because of what he or she is anticipating. This can cause serious stress both at work and at home, where he or she may continue to worry about his or her feelings of loneliness, inability to form new relationships, and inability to bond effectively. The best course of action, if the individual does not know what to do, would be to talk to a professional.
Speaking to a therapist can help relieve stress and the feeling of being alone. Therapists are trained to understand concerns, fears, and anxieties. Therapy which seeks to understand the client’s feelings instead of allowing him or her to vent about their feelings gets to the root of the problem and attempts to find ways to deal with it.
A client-centered approach (Rogers, 1951) allows the client to come to conclusions on his or her own with guidance from the therapist. The client usually knows what the underlying issue is. Offering a nonjudgmental space where the client is able to explore his inner psyche allows him to deal with these issues on his own. This increases feelings of self-worth, self-efficacy, and confidence. Dealing with the underlying issue allows for the client to alleviate stress and keep the same issue from recurring.
Therapy is important, and understanding where the issues are coming from not only enlightens the individual but better equips them to deal with stress. There may be underlying issues relating to future stress, and therapy helps them to be better equipped to handle it.
Rogers, C. (1951). Client-centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications and Theory. London: Constable.
Sapolsky, R. (2004). Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. New York: St. Martins Press.
Trevisani, D. (2009). Human Potential Methods and Techniques for Coaching, Training, and Performance Development. Milan: Franco Angeli.
Therapy session photo available from Shutterstock