Everyone experiences anxiety. Whether it’s over a work deadline, a family dispute, or another temporary stressor, most anxieties resolve when the stressor is removed. But if you’re experiencing constant worry, fear, or stress that affects your day-to-day life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, you should reach out to your medical provider. Speaking with a medical provider can help identify treatments that relieve your anxiety.
When to See a Doctor for Anxiety
It can be hard to know when to seek help for your anxiety. As a general rule of thumb, if your symptoms of anxiety occur consistently, are of high intensity, and/or impact your quality of life, you should reach out to a provider for help. If you have any of the following, you should also reach out to a provider:
- Thoughts of self-harm
- Inability to focus or perform well at work or school
- Inability to stop thoughts of worry or fear
- Family history of anxiety or mental health conditions
- Recent pregnancy
Signs Your Anxiety May Be a Disorder
It’s important to know what signs and symptoms may indicate an anxiety disorder. These symptoms can be either physical or emotional. They can also vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Feeling restless or on-edge
- Difficulty sleeping (including difficulty falling or staying asleep)
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unexplained pains (including stomach pains and muscle aches)
- Intrusive thoughts or worrying
Signs and symptoms of panic disorder include:
- Pounding or racing heart
- Chest pain
- Feeling of being out of control
- Sense of impending doom
- Trembling or tingling
Signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder:
- The feeling of self-consciousness or fear that people will judge you poorly
- Blushing, sweating, or trembling
- Pounding or racing heart
- Stomach pain
- Rigid body posture
- Overly soft voice when speaking in front of others
- Difficulty meeting new people
Signs and symptoms of phobia-related disorders:
- Overwhelming fear or worry about encountering a specific object or situation
- Taking specific steps to avoid encountering an object or situation
- Immediate and intense anxiety that occurs when you encounter a feared object or situation
Types of Providers who Treat Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of providers who can treat anxiety disorders:
- Primary care physician (PCP): Most PCPs are trained to identify and diagnose common mental health disorders. Many can also suggest and prescribe pharmacological treatment. A PCP can also often make a referral to a mental health specialist for counseling.
- Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the treatment of mental illness. They can provide both psychotherapies, or talk therapy, and prescription medication.
- Psychologist: A psychologist is a mental health professional who specializes in talk therapy or counseling. In most states, a psychologist is unable to prescribe medicine.
- Psychiatric nurse practitioner: A psychiatric nurse practitioner is trained to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. They can also prescribe medications.
- Master’s-level mental health clinician: There are several types of masters-level clinicians trained to provide talk therapy or counseling. These clinicians may be Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LICSW), Marriage & Family Therapists (MFT), or Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) with a masters degree in clinical our counseling psychology.
Most anxiety disorders are treated with talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both. It’s important to remember that it can take some time to find the right treatment strategy for you. When it comes to psychotherapy, it can take some time to find the right therapist or type of therapy that works for you. With medication, you may have to try a few different types before you find the one that works to resolve your symptoms.
Questions to Ask During Your Appointment
Making an appointment with your provider is the first step to getting help for your anxiety. peaking openly about your anxiety can be stressful though, especially if it’s your first time. Below are some questions you can ask your provider to help make the most of your appointment together:
- Do I have an anxiety disorder?: After sharing your symptoms and medical history, ask your provider whether they think you have an anxiety disorder. If they don’t think you have an anxiety disorder, ask them if there are other factors that could be causing your symptoms, including any medications you’re currently taking.
- What treatment options are available?: If you’re interested in medication, ask your provider about their specific recommendations or if they can refer you to someone who can prescribe medication.
- What side effects can I expect?: If you decide to try medication, be sure to ask your provider about possible side effects. It’s also important to tell them about any current medications you’re taking and whether or not you’re allergic to any types of medication.
- What type of counseling do you recommend and why?: Common types of therapy used to treat anxiety include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure. In some cases, mental health experts use a combination of different therapies to treat a patient.
- How long will treatment last?: This isn’t always an easy question to answer, but it can help to give you an expectation of what’s ahead.
Coping With Anxiety
Learning to cope with anxiety often requires a multifaceted approach. In addition to therapy and medication, there are certain lifestyle changes that can help to soothe your symptoms:
- Know your triggers
- Eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet
- Get regular exercise
- Prioritize regular, quality sleep
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