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Can I Go to My Primary Care Doctor for Anxiety?

can i go to my primary care doctor for anxiety

It’s no surprise that recent data reveals that more people in the U.S. are reporting significant and sustained increases in symptoms of depression and anxiety. From the COVID-19 virus having a clear physical impact on those who contract the virus to the immense emotional and mental stress of living through a pandemic, we are seeing higher rates of anxiety and other mental health-related disorders.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million Americans currently suffer from one form of anxiety disorder. It’s also the most common mental illness among children, affecting 20% of adolescents.

Fortunately, there are many ways that you can treat anxiety disorders, including therapy, Telehealth for patients, and medication. This article explores what anxiety is and potential treatment options if you have this disorder.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a mental and emotional state that’s often characterized by feelings of worry or fear. The impacts of anxiety can be both physical and mental.

Anxiety disorders vary in type and severity—from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), long-term but milder, to panic disorder, where intense episodes of terror strike without warning. Though some people experience only one specific type of anxiety throughout their lives, many suffer from multiple types simultaneously.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Many different symptoms are associated with anxiety. Understanding when you are feeling anxious should be noted. The more you understand your personal experience with anxiety, the better equipped you will be to manage it and share it with a provider that can help you develop a treatment plan

The following are some common mental, physical and behavioral symptoms of anxiety:

  • Feeling of restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
  • Feeling like everything is an emergency
  • Muscle tension or pain, headaches, jaw clenching or teeth grinding
  • Chest pain and rapid heart rate
  • GI problems such as nausea, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Fatigue and insomnia/oversleeping

Some of these symptoms can occur from different stimulants and social interactions, meaning that just because you have experienced one or more of these in short periods does not mean you are automatically diagnosed with anxiety. We advise consulting with a professional if you believe that the symptoms you experience interfere with your daily life or persist for an extended period.

Which Healthcare Professionals Treat Anxiety?

In many cases, you can see your primary care doctor for anxiety, even if it’s just to start the conversation and receive a referral. In addition to your PCP, the following healthcare professionals can also diagnose anxiety and work with you on anxiety management: Psychiatrists[GW4] 

  • Specialized nurse practitioners
  • Assistants to primary care doctors or psychiatrists
  • Professional therapists and counselors
  • Psychologists

Testing and therapy are available from several providers, including psychologists, counselors, and therapists. But while they can provide testing and therapy, not all can prescribe medicine if needed.

If your condition or situation doesn’t allow you to visit a doctor, you may also consider using TeleHealth for patients. TeleHealth allows you to have a conversation with a healthcare provider through your phone or computer. This enables patients who cannot leave their homes or even those who are isolated, such as the elderly and those with disabilities, to receive therapy of any kind.

What will my provider do for me?

Anxiety is a difficult condition to treat, but effective therapy exists. The two most popular therapies for anxiety are psychotherapy (talk therapy) and prescription medication.

Your doctor can prescribe medication to help with anxiety symptoms. In addition, they may also recommend self-treatment methods you can practice at home, which include following a healthy diet, consistently exercising, and getting regular sleep. Monitoring your physical health has been proven to help reduce anxiety symptoms.

Psychotherapy alone or in combination with medications effectively treats most people suffering from an anxiety disorder. Some therapists recommend self-help workbooks that detail different types of anxiety disorders and provide exercises for managing them.

How will a doctor diagnose anxiety?

Before healthcare professionals establish an anxiety disorder diagnosis, they will want to learn about your personal and family medical history. They’ll also ask about your symptoms and how long you have been experiencing them.

The professional will likely use a diagnostic tool, such as the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), to help diagnose. This manual is used by mental health professionals in the United States to diagnose mental disorders, and it lists all recognized mental disorders and their symptoms.

Do You Have to Take Medication?

If you are not interested in taking prescription medication for anxiety, other options are available, including therapy and self-help workbooks. Talk with your doctor about what might be best for you.

Your doctor can also provide referrals to therapists or counselors specializing in anxiety treatment.

What Are Some Therapy Options?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been scientifically proven to be one of the most effective ways to treat panic disorder and other specific phobias such as agoraphobia, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBT is also helpful in generalized anxiety disorder, health anxiety, and other types of problems.

Other therapies that are effective for treating various disorders include exposure therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), family-focused therapy (FFT), relaxation techniques such as yoga or deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, and biofeedback.

These therapies work on various aspects of an anxiety disorder, including thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body such as heart rate or muscle tension/pain; behaviors such as avoiding certain situations like flying on airplanes; and physical symptoms associated with panic attacks like hyperventilating.

The main aim is to help you recognize when your brain tricks you into thinking something dangerous is happening so that you can learn how to react when anxious things happen.

Take the First Step in Reducing Anxiety

Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in the United States. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, and they can be treated through therapy, medication, and self-treatment.  With proper treatment, most people with an anxiety disorder see improvement in their symptoms within weeks to months.

If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, visiting your primary care doctor is a significant first step in effectively managing your symptoms and anxiety disorder. 

Our doctors and specialists at PACT are dedicated to providing high-quality patient-centered care. If you want to locate a primary care doctor in Connecticut, visit here to look through our list of board-certified physicians based in your area.