Scientific American presents Savvy Psychologist by Quick & Dirty Tips. Scientific American and Quick & Dirty Tips are both Macmillan companies.

Seeking help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other counselor can be a great way to get through a rough patch, get some perspective, or optimize your life. But not everyone feels comfortable taking that step.

This week, we’ll address some common myths and fears that may needlessly be keeping you from getting help and feeling better. Next week, we’ll cover how to talk to someone in your life who could use a psychological tune-up, but needs a gentle nudge (or even a compassionate kick in the head) to make that first appointment.

According to a 2007 population-based prevalence study, 29% of the population has a diagnosable disorder that is going untreated—that’s almost one in three people! The highest treatment need was for alcohol dependence; then, in order, depression, social anxiety, and panic. The same study found that less than one-third of people who needed help got help.   

Likewise, a 2009 study of over 36,000 people found that in the past year, fully 4% had thought seriously about suicide or had attempted suicide. Of that 4%, half of those who had contemplated suicide and one-quarter of those who had attempted suicide didn’t seek help, or even perceive the need for help. 

The take home: there are millions of people out there, perhaps even you or someone you love, who could benefit from a few sessions with a good psychologist, psychiatrist, or other counselor.  But it takes strength to seek help, and know-how to get in the door. To that end, here are 5 common barriers to seeking treatment--and how you can convince yourself (or someone you love) to overcome them.

Want more tips?  Check out  How to Ask for Help

Barrier #1: I Can Fix This Myself
In an independent, self-reliant culture like ours, seeking help is often equated with weakness. In truth, getting help is a sign of strength and courage.  There’s no shame in taking your car to a mechanic, your money to a financial adviser, or your golf swing to a coach. You wouldn’t treat a broken leg on your own, right? The same should be true for depression, addiction, or any other affliction that’s sucking the life out of you.

>> Continue reading on