Anxiety disorder is a medical condition that can be treated. The sooner treatment is started, the better the outcome you can expect. Anxiety can be treated by a number of different professionals.
Effective treatment of an anxiety disorder requires that you be completely open and honest with your doctor. Therefore, it is important that you trust and feel comfortable with the doctor that is treating your condition. Don’t feel that you are “stuck” with the first doctor you see. If you are not comfortable with him or her, you should see someone else. You and your doctor must be able to work together as a team to treat your disorder. A variety of doctors and specialists may be able to help manage your anxiety; a good place to start is with your primary care physician.
Primary Care Physician
Your primary doctor will conduct a complete physical examination to determine if your symptoms are being caused by another condition. Symptoms of anxiety may be due to hormone imbalance, side effects of medications, certain illnesses, and various other conditions. When these have been ruled out and an anxiety disorder has been diagnosed, you may be referred to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. This is especially likely if your anxiety is severe or is accompanied by another mental health condition such as depression.
A psychologist can offer psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or counseling. A psychologist can help get to the root of your anxiety and help to create behavioral changes. This type of therapy may be especially helpful if you have experienced trauma or abuse. A psychologist cannot prescribe medication. If you are referred to a psychologist, it may be in conjunction with ongoing treatment by your primary doctor. Psychotherapy and medication are often used together to treat anxiety disorder.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. A psychiatrist can provide both psychotherapy and medication to treat your anxiety disorder.
A nutritionist is not a physician. A nutritionist is specially trained to help you create a balanced food plan that works for you. This plan will help you develop healthy eating habits that will prevent illness and promote general good health. A nutritionist alone cannot treat your anxiety disorder but may work with your other doctor or doctors to help get you feeling better faster.
To make the most of your visit to the doctor, it is a good idea to be prepared. Take a few minutes ahead of time to think about what you need to tell your doctor and what questions you want to ask. The best way to make sure you don’t forget anything you want to say or ask is to write it down.
Things to Tell Your Doctor
This information will help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis of your condition.
- Make a list of your symptoms and when they began. If certain things make your symptoms better or worse, include that information. Note when symptoms occur and how these symptoms affect your life.
- Write down any major stresses in your life as well as any traumas you have experienced, whether recent or past.
- Write down all of your health conditions, both mental and physical.
- Make a list of all medications and supplements you are taking. Include how much you take and how often.
- List any other substances you use or consume, such as coffee, alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. If you eat excessive amounts of sugar include that, too.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
You have probably thought of a million questions you want to ask your doctor. But when you are in the office, it is easy to forget what they are. Having them written down will help both you and your doctor and will save time. It’s a good idea to put the most important questions at the top of the list in case there is not time for all of them. The following are some questions you might want to ask. Any others you would like to ask should be added to the list.
- Do I have an anxiety disorder?
- Is there something else that might be causing my symptoms?
- What treatment do you recommend?
- Should I see a psychiatrist or psychologist?
- Is there a medication that I can take? Does it have side effects? What can I do to prevent or relieve them? Is there a generic medication I can take? How long will I need to take it?
- When will I feel better?
- What else can I do to relieve my symptoms?
Questions Your Doctor May Ask You
The list you made will help you be prepared to answer your doctor’s questions. The following are questions you will most likely be asked.
- What are your symptoms and how severe are they?
- When did your symptoms start?
- When do you experience symptoms? All of the time? Sometimes? At specific times?
- What makes your symptoms worse?
- What makes your symptoms better?
- What physical and mental medical conditions do you have?
- What medications are you taking?
- Do you smoke, drink coffee or alcohol, or use drugs? How often and in what quantity?
- How stressful is work or school?
- What is your living situation? Do you live alone? With family?
- Are you in a committed relationship?
- Are your relationships with friends and family good, or difficult and stressful?
- How much do your symptoms affect your work, school, and relationships with friends and family?
- Have you ever experienced any trauma?
- Does anyone in your family have a mental health condition?
In addition to your prescribed treatment, you might want to join a support group. It can be very helpful to talk with other people who are experiencing symptoms similar to yours. It is good to know that you are not alone. Someone else with similar symptoms can understand what you are going through and offer support and encouragement. Being part of a group can also help you develop new social skills.
You can probably find support groups in your community, either for your specific disorder or for anxiety in general. Check with your mental health provider, your primary doctor, or your county mental health services to learn which resources are available in your area. You can also find support groups online. This might be a good way to start if you have social anxiety disorder or feel uncomfortable in a face-to-face group setting.