Is it a good idea to “tough it out?” Like virtually all extremes, this one is just as unhealthy as being an incessant grouch or a constant complainer.
Consider the case of Anne: “I can’t stand whiners,” Anne stated firmly. She believed in “keeping a stiff upper lip,” never complained to anyone when she was ill, upset, or otherwise distressed, and always kept her feelings to herself. But Anne became extremely depressed after the breakup of her second marriage. Her dreams and expectations had been shattered.
Anne eventually had to move back in with her parents and had difficulty finding a decent job, which made matters worse. A close friend advised her to consult a therapist, or at least to talk with her doctor about antidepressant medication. Anne refused to follow her friend’s advice and decided to “tough it out.”
Anne continued to suffer for over a year and admitted that she had even thought of suicide. Eventually, things began to fall into place for her, especially when she finally obtained decent employment.
While some may say “Good for her! She toughed it out and overcame her depression on her own,” I maintain that Anne suffered unnecessarily and missed an opportunity to rally much sooner.
It is likely that if Anne had sought therapy, instead of toughing it out, not only would the depth and duration of her depression and suffering been lessened, but she might have learned helpful things about herself, useful mood management skills, and perhaps been able to better position herself for a satisfying career and happier relationships.
Simply said, there is nothing admirable about prolonging misery, needless suffering, and avoidable struggling.
It is particularly alarming to see people decide to “tough it out” when they feel fatigued, describe themselves as “down in the dumps,” can’t get going, find everything an effort, complain of poor sleep, and can’t find enjoyment in life’s simple pleasures. Even more concerning are those who experience extreme mood swings from high to low or are preoccupied with thoughts of death. These symptoms can stem from several metabolic conditions that often masquerade as mood disorders (e.g., hormone imbalances, diabetes, drug reactions, etc.) so a thorough medical checkup is often a necessary first step in assessing the seriousness of such symptoms and pointing the way forward to resolve them.
The upshot is simple:
• Asking for help when you need it is a sign of courage and intelligence, rather than weakness or personal failing.
• Frequently, “toughing it out” or “going it alone” makes as much sense as ignoring dental cavities in the hope that they will fill themselves!
• Despite the popular DIY movement, it usually makes sense to consult a professional for legal concerns, tax complications, plumbing problems, car repairs, and medical matters. So why should potentially serious psychological troubles be any different?
By the way, in many cases, help does not have to come from a professional. A good friend can often do the job, but that means you have to swallow your pride and put aside your ego and ask for help. This becomes easier once you realize that health and happiness are more important than pride and ego.
Remember: Think well, act well, feel well, be well!
Copyright by Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.