14 Young Women on Why They Chose to Seek Therapy and What They Learned From It
After my great-grandmother died when I was 10, in the quiet moments, I found myself obsessing over the weighted unknown of our lives and the prospect of death. I'd stay up at night with my palm pressed to my chest, making sure I could feel my heartbeat. Was this dark stuff for a fifth grader? Sure. My parents grew concerned, and they signed me up for therapy. I only went for about a year or so, and I don't remember much about the experience besides drawing diagrams with colored pencils and sitting on a couch that seemed too big for my body. I do remember, though, that we rarely talked about what I'd been ruminating over in the first place.
I recently made the decision on my own to go back to therapy almost 15 years later for similar and unrelated reasons I won't get into. I'm a young adult now with a career and more independence, and getting into the flow of talking to someone — and paying out of pocket myself — has been a process. It's awkward to speak to a stranger about the way your mind works, past relationships, and daily stressors, but I'm sure that in the long run, even if I don't feel it right away, therapy will be useful for my mental health.
Alyssa Mancao, LCSW a licensed mental health therapist in California who offers, among other things, services for young adults, told POPSUGAR that you can be at "any stage or age in life and still benefit from working with a mental health professional" because it'll help you "develop a better understanding of your internal world and will teach you the skills to manage the difficulties that you're experiencing." But, for teenagers and those in their 20s specifically, talking to a therapist is something she recommends. Those years, she explained, "are a time of coming into yourself and learning how to develop healthy relationships and set boundaries. A licensed mental health professional is a great resource for learning to identify and develop healthy relationships, as well as learning to step into your most authentic self."
Marline Francois-Madden, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey, agreed. "Some of the stressors I've seen teens experience dealt with feeling isolated even in social settings, societal pressure to know their post-secondary education plans, difficulties with managing their emotions when dealing with high stressors, and not having a safe space to just talk about their feelings," she said. "With deaths by suicide being the second leading cause of death for teens, it's important for adults to recognize some of the warning signs and be proactive with having teens see a therapist."
As for young adults, some have come to her due to a lack of work/life balance, imposter syndrome, "unresolved childhood traumas that impact their relationships, and comparing their life to those on social media," she said. It's common, she added, for people in this age group to struggle with setting boundaries with family, friends, and employers, and they can also overextend themselves, stretching themselves too thin.
POPSUGAR wanted to get insight from young people who either went to therapy in their teens, went in their early 20s, or go now. Talking to someone who has an outside perspective can feel strange, but it's often helpful for working through problems both big and small. Ahead, check out what 14 women had to say about why they chose to seek help and what they got out of therapy.
Meredith, 21, Started Having Panic Attacks at 15
"I had really severe stomach issues as a 15-year-old and often had panic attacks, so my mom actually forced me to see a therapist because my father has panic attacks as well! I've been going since I was 16 and have seen three therapists so far. I understand myself better and what my needs are."
Alexa, 24, Realized She Was Suicidal at 20
"I started therapy at 20 because I realized I was suicidal. I kept going after that initial period to deal with all of the other stuff hiding underneath. It has been generally beneficial!"
Sam, 24, Started Going While in a Toxic Relationship
"I started going while in a bad relationship in college. I didn't realize that was causing a lot of my anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc. until we broke up. After the breakup, I continued to be harassed and sexually abused by this person and couldn't find the light. Therapy has helped me tremendously to accept the things I cannot control and progress positively. It's helped me understand how to be in the relationship I'm in now and continue to behave and react in a healthy manner. It's helped me with day-to-day anxiety, figuring out my career, even understanding grief when my grandpa died. I highly suggest therapy for everyone and anyone regardless of the reason because no problem in your life is too big or too small if it affects your wellbeing."
Halle, 24, Goes to Manage Her Anxiety
"I go to help manage my anxiety. It's been super helpful so far and doesn't feel forced at all. I started going in March of this year and I still go."
Julia, 28, Started Therapy at 19 For Body Dysmorphia
"I started therapy when I was 19. I originally started going to therapy because I had anxiety/anger/body dysmorphia issues. I was in a toxic relationship and very confused. So, I went to therapy for three years at my college's counseling center. Then, I got in a healthy, happy relationship (with my now husband) and stopped going! Fast forward two years ago when I started feeling the same types of stuff, with even more anxiety at the forefront, I found out the therapist I was seeing in college had his own private practice. I started going to him again, and he's helped me through everything from body dysmorphia to an eating disorder to my fear of death and everything in between."
Melissa, 24, Started Therapy Last Year Due to Family Issues
"I started therapy last year because my dad relapsed (alcoholism). It's the best decision I've ever made. It's just helped me learn healthy coping mechanisms and given me a safe place to talk about everything."
Devon, 23, Goes For Waves of Depression and Anxiety
"I'm such a big advocate for therapy. It's extremely beneficial, and I have been going to therapy for myself consistently since I was like 13 for mental health, specifically waves of depression and anxiety, and also dealing with ADHD as I got older. I just really love therapy, and I think anyone or everyone should do it because it's an invaluable resource. It doesn't hurt to speak your mind without feeling judged or bias. It's a very priceless experience!"
Brittany, 27, Is Such a Therapy Advocate That She's Gotten Her Friends to Go
"I started therapy at around 15, and for the last 12 years I've been pretty consistent. I'm in a very different place obviously so my specific needs in therapy are different. Having someone to listen, challenge, and give life to the inner workings of you that you need to pay attention to can't be bad. It's the most natural way to deal with your issues and life head on. I find it's extremely beneficial because you're able to get another perspective, one that will challenge yours. Somebody who has no relation and isn't obligated to tell you what you want to hear. I went from not thinking I needed it and it's stupid to pushing others and friends outside their boundaries to do it. I think everyone should do it."
Meghan, 24, Went For Anxiety
"I started going in high school because I was anxious to have sex with my first boyfriend. I went on and off all throughout high school and college. It was definitely beneficial and helped put my ruminating thoughts to words. I still go back when I need to but much less."
Natasha, 24, Struggled With Anxiety Transitioning to College
"I started going to therapy when I was 16 initially because of the transition from high school to college. It was right around the time of studying for SATs, looking at colleges, and all that. I felt like I wasn't sure what the future held and was really anxious, so I decided talking to my mom just wasn't enough! I stopped therapy my freshman year of college. For the year and a half that I went consistently to therapy, I think it definitely helped me put my life in perspective. It was very cathartic to talk through my thoughts and feelings. I think everyone should go to therapy at least once in their lives. It doesn't make you weak or any less resilient or courageous. It's quite the opposite actually!"
Sierra, 23, Was Dealing With Her Parents' Divorce
"I don't currently go, but I was dealing with the aftermath of my parents' divorce. There had been domestic violence from my mother, and I had suicidal thoughts during my senior year of high school. Throughout my freshman year of college, I began to realize that I was having lots of social anxiety, which made it difficult for me to connect with people. Therapy when I was 20 years old 100-percent helped me, and it gave me the ability to reframe and move forward with my life."
Maddy, 22, Went For a Past Panic Disorder
"I was 15 or 16 and I developed a panic disorder. I didn't love my therapist, but I do think talking helped in ways. I don't go anymore, but I went to CAPS (counseling service) once during college to talk to a therapist and it was honestly really helpful even just going one time."
Laura, 23, Wanted to Find Clarity Amid Chaos
"I find therapy very beneficial. It's an outlet for me to almost let go of everything that's been clogged in my mind and help me find a way to be more aware in a city as hectic as New York. Before, I found myself not being centered. [My therapist] finds different practices that best suit me, like breathing practices, stress management, etc., which have helped me in the short and long term so much."
Anneke, 23, Went Growing Up to Deal With an Emotionally Abusive Relationship
"My parents have been divorced since I was basically a baby, and I was an only child most of my life. My mum started dating someone with four kids already, so I think I started going to therapy around age 8 or 9 because my mum wanted me to have someone to talk to about it. Once my dad started dating someone and then married her, our therapy sessions quickly became about the emotional abuse that woman inflicted on me. So from then until about age 16, I was in therapy talking about this woman and trying to find ways to communicate to my dad about how upset she made me, but also learning what I had to do to gain back my confidence and undo the harm she was inflicting on me. It helped so much to have someone to talk to who was looking at the situation unbiased. I find myself becoming my own therapist now in terms of really analyzing the world and the conflicts I encounter, but most importantly identifying my own issues and where they come from, then learning to confront them. My therapist changed my life."