Everyone worries, right?
How can we afford replacing the roof this year?
Is my job on the line when the company downsizes?
What if I can’t complete my degree on time?
What if they are cheating on me?
We all experience worry and symptoms of anxiety from time to time. It’s normal to worry about issues like health, finances, relationships, pets, and so on. This may be one reason many people aren’t aware that they have a diagnosable anxiety condition. They may suffer for weeks, months, or even years with a high degree of worry, panic, and stress that impedes their daily life.
Conversely, some people may suspect that something is wrong. They may notice that they just can’t bounce back after a bout of worrying or a stressful situation. Even after a challenging experience works out well, they may still worry and feel a sense of gloom and doom: Something bad is just around the corner; the next phone call might bring bad news; an envelope in the mailbox will change everything for the worse.
When worry and emotional distress like panic and a sense of foreboding get in the way of one’s daily life and rarely seem to let up, it’s important to get to the bottom of it. A correct diagnosis can help you understand what is going on, as well as what’s needed to treat and manage it and achieve better quality of life.
Who Can Diagnose Anxiety?
Mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression are not uncommon. For this reason, many primary care physicians make the initial diagnosis and may even begin treatment with medication. Typically, however, when a primary care doctor or nurse practitioner suspects that a patient has anxiety, they will refer them to a mental healthcare provider such as a psychiatrist or therapist. Sometimes, a primary doctor will prescribe medication based on the therapist or psychologist’s recommendations. Psychiatrists, as medical doctors who specialize in treating mental health issues like anxiety, can prescribe medication and provide referrals to therapists.
For a diagnosis of anxiety to be official, it must be made by a medical professional. Some people may suspect they have anxiety or even take an online test that suggests they’re suffering from anxiety, but it’s vital to meet with a medical professional. They will have the most accurate diagnostic tools and the training to use them.
A person with anxiety may have generalized anxiety, which is common, or a different form of anxiety like social anxiety. They may also be suffering from another mental health disorder such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. An accurate medical diagnosis is the first step toward proper management of the condition and recovery.
What Is an Official Diagnosis?
When you visit your primary doctor or a mental health specialist, you will likely be asked to fill out a written questionnaire or one may be conducted verbally. The provider will examine your answers and then discuss your symptoms with you. The more detailed you can be, the better.
You will likely be asked more questions about when these symptoms began. The provider may also want to know whether others in your immediate and extended family have anxiety or other mental health issues.
Upon diagnosing your condition, your provider may recommend counseling and, in many cases, medication. Depending on your symptoms, a doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications because they can provide fast relief. If symptoms are more mild, many doctors prefer to rely on antidepressants, instead, because they don’t have addictive properties. However, antidepressants take a few weeks to kick in before they alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Your treatment will depend on your symptoms and their severity.
What Are the Symptoms That Someone with Anxiety Might Experience?
Symptoms of anxiety can vary. However, the condition is generally marked by persistent worry–even fear. The most common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Nervousness or tenseness
- Feelings of panic
- Feelings of danger or even doom
- Increased sweating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased heart rate
- Inability to control worrying
- Avoidance of things that trigger symptoms
A person with anxiety often feels like their brain is racing with worry. Again, while we all experience worry to some degree at different points in our day, week, and year, we are able to manage those concerns without them impeding our daily life, at least over time. We may have a terrible few days or weeks, but when those symptoms do not dissipate, the individual may be said to be experiencing clinical anxiety.
Some people are simply wired this way; they’re more vulnerable to worry and, so, in times of prolonged stress, they may be inclined to suffer from clinical anxiety. On the other hand, someone with a physical health condition or someone who is caring for a loved one with a health condition may find that the prolonged stress impacts their mental health, leaving them feeling increasingly anxious or depressed.
One of the reasons many people don’t immediately seek medical help for feelings of anxiety is because those feelings seem perfectly in keeping with the situation at hand. For instance, a parent might be struggling with a terminal illness. Taking care of this individual may leave the son or daughter feeling more anxious and upset than is usual for them. However, that’s to be expected.
Unfortunately, when the tenseness, restlessness, or worries aren’t managed, the condition can worsen. In such cases, the individual may find it difficult to function normally. They may even feel debilitated–unable to cope with their daily tasks or their symptoms.
What to Tell the Doctor
The doctor who diagnoses anxiety, either your general practitioner, psychiatrist, or psychologist, needs to hear all of your symptoms. If you understand what triggers your symptoms, discuss them. Tell the doctor when your symptoms began and how they’ve progressed. If they ask you if any other family members suffer from anxiety or other mental health conditions, be thorough in your answer. Many mental illnesses have a genetic basis; however, anxiety is such that it may run in families or an individual may have it simply because of life experiences.
If you’ve attempted to self-medicate in the past with drugs or alcohol, it’s best to confide in your practitioner here, too. Why? Because if you have substance abuse issues, your provider will want to be cautious about the medications they prescribe. Most likely, doctors will try to prescribe non-addictive medications. Benzodiazepines and sedatives can provide immediate relief in many cases, but these medications have a high risk for abuse.
If you get an anxiety diagnosis, don’t panic. Yes, you may already be in panic mode, but a diagnosis is a good first step because it puts you on the path to proper treatment. With the right treatment, you should experience an alleviation of symptoms.
Medications are helpful in the treatment of anxiety, but in the long term, it’s counseling that has a strong impact on how the individual manages their condition. With counseling, patients learn how to spot the signs of an anxiety attack and can develop strategies for warding it off. They learn how chronic stress leaves them vulnerable to bouts of anxiety. Therapists help patients manage their stress so that it doesn’t trigger their anxiety.
If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or any other mental health condition, don’t wait to get help. These symptoms can worsen. The sooner you seek a diagnosis, the sooner you can get the right treatment. Whether your anxiety is chronic or has been caused by a traumatic life experience, you can learn to manage it and feel better. To learn how, contact FHE Health today.