How do you know if it’s time for you to seek psychotherapy for depression and anxiety?

What are key signs for you that it’s time to get help for depression and anxiety?

If you want to be in therapy, go ahead! For any reason! Just think about what you are looking for from therapy, and find a therapist!

You don’t need to be in dire straits to seek psychotherapy.

People are in psychotherapy for tons of different reasons, from personal development and growth to addressing an acute or ongoing problem.

Psychotherapy, by the way, includes many different approaches. Some are more effective than others, depending on the kind of depression and anxiety you have.

But what if the question is how do you know you should seek psychotherapy for depression and anxiety?

Mental health professionals refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual — the ‘Bible’ of psychiatric disorders — to distinguish between feeling sad or stressed on occasion to having symptoms of a clinical disorder such as depression or anxiety.

The general standard for when it’s time to seek psychotherapy for depression and anxiety is if your symptoms are present for

1. More than two weeks, and

2. Interfere with living your life, and

3. Impair how you function. 

So taking these three criteria into account, how do you know if it is time for you to seek psychotherapy for depression and anxiety?


First, keep in mind that symptoms of depression vary from person to person, and even over time in one person.

No two people have exactly the same symptoms or severity of depression. This fact makes it impossible to say specifically when it is time for you to seek psychotherapy for depression and anxiety.

There is no blood test or other objective marker that it is time to seek psychotherapy for depression and anxiety.

The diagnosis of depression is based on self-report and on what other people may notice/comment about your thoughts, feelings, and day to day decisions.

There are different kinds of depression, some associated with other situations. Postpartum depression is an example. So are dysthymia (a two plus year, low grade depression with a couple of other symptoms) and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD occurs during winter months, when there is less sunlight, and naturally lifts around spring time, year after year.

Symptoms of depression, according to the DSM, include:

  1. Persistently sad or “empty” mood. Irritability is also common in children/teens
  2. Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and things you used to enjoy
  3. Feeling guilty, worthless or helpless
  4. Hopelessness
  5. Decreased energy
  6. Moving or talking more slowly than usual
  7. Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  8. Difficulty sleeping, such as disrupted sleep, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  9. Appetite and/or weight changes (up or down)
  10. Aches or pains, headaches, or digestive problems with no physical cause

    Remember, the diagnosis of depression means symptoms have lasted at least two weeks, have caused additional problems, and interfere with how you function.

Here are some important facts in considering psychotherapy for depression and anxiety:

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S and is highly treatable.

Ongoing research suggests depression is caused by genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Depending on the cause, different treatments may be more helpful than other treatments.

There is no one size fits all treatment for depression, for adults or children. As more is learned about depression, the better we will be able to match the treatment with the symptoms.

So now what about Anxiety?


Anxiety, like depression, varies in form and severity from person to person, and even over time in the same person.

As is true for depression, anxiety can occur for many different reasons, and it can present in different ways. It can also happen alongside other conditions.

Many forms of anxiety are described in the DSM.

Examples include Post traumatic stress, panic, phobias, obsessions, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety. Each anxiety based condition in the Anxiety Disorders chapter is unique, except some form of anxiety is part of each of them.

The common threads of anxiety of various forms include:

  • Worrying about the future, such as focusing on negative ‘what if”s
  • Bodily tension, such as fidgeting
  • Autonomic reactivity, including dry mouth, lightheadedness, sweating, rapid heart rate

Like depression, anxiety is an expected part of life. Whether before an interview, or while having a medical procedure done, feeling anxious at times is normal.

However, an anxiety disorder is so much more than temporary worry or fear.

With an anxiety disorder, anxiety does not go away easily. It may worsen over time, and can get in the way of living your life.

Psychotherapy for depression and anxiety can provide a very useful way to understand yourself. Especially your moods, coping style, and ways of thinking. The duration of therapy varies and works best the more you apply what you learn.

Think of therapy as an investment in yourself. And if depression and anxiety are what led you to therapy, you have firsthand experience of a silver lining!

PLEASE NOTE: If at any time you are in acute distress and need to speak with someone, please contact:

Lifeline (; 1-800-273-8255 (CHAT)

If you are concerned about someone’s safety, please contact:

NIMH » Suicide Prevention (; 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).

Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I work with men and women from adolescence through adulthood who have different levels of depression and anxiety, for different reasons, and in different forms. My bias is that psychotherapy is super powerful and something to consider even if you don’t ‘have to’.