You may start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner to find out if your anxiety could be related to your physical health. Your doctor can check for signs of an underlying illness that may need treatment.
However, you may need to see a specialist if you have severe anxiety. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. A psychologist and certain other mental health providers can diagnose anxiety and provide counseling (psychotherapy).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor or mental health provider.
What you can do
Prepare and take this information with you:
- A list of your anxiety symptoms. Note when they occur, whether anything seems to make them better or worse, and how much they affect your day-to-day activities and interactions.
- What's caused you stress. Include any major life changes or stressful events you've dealt with recently. Also note any traumatic experiences you've had in the past or as a child.
- Any other health problems you have. Include both physical conditions and mental health issues.
- A list of all medications you're taking. Write down the doses, and include any vitamins or supplements.
- Questions to ask your doctor. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time to make the most of limited time with your doctor.
For anxiety, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my anxiety?
- Are there other possible situations, psychological issues or physical health problems that could be causing or worsening my anxiety?
- Do I need medical tests or other tests?
- Are there any restrictions or steps I need to follow?
- Should I see a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider?
- Would cognitive behavioral therapy help me?
- Would medication help? If so, is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Do you have any printed material that I can take home? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you a number of questions, such as:
Dec. 29, 2013
- Exactly what are your symptoms, and how severe are they?
- Have you ever had a panic attack?
- Do you avoid certain things or situations because they make you anxious?
- Have your feelings of anxiety been occasional or continuous?
- When did you first begin noticing your feelings of anxiety?
- Does anything in particular seem to trigger your feelings of anxiety or make them worse?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your feelings of anxiety?
- What traumatic experiences have you had recently or in the past?
- What, if any, physical or mental health conditions do you have?
- Do you take any prescription drugs?
- Do you regularly drink alcohol or use illegal drugs?
- Do you have any blood relatives with anxiety or other mental health conditions such as depression?
- Anxiety disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed May 17, 2012.
- Hales RE, et al. The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2008. http://www.psychiatryonline.com/resourceToc.aspx?resourceID=5. Accessed May 17, 2012.
- Rakel RE. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191205553-4/0/1481/0.html#. Accessed May 18, 2012.
- Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..X0001-1--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05472-0&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed May 18, 2012.
- Hicks D, et al. An approach to the patient with anxiety. Medical Clinics of North America. 2010;94:1127.
- Roy-Byrne PP, et al. Anxiety disorders and comorbid medical illness. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2008;30:208.
- Rakel D. Integrative Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-2/0/1494/0.html. Accessed May 21, 2012.
- Lakhan SE, et al. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: Systematic review. Nutrition Journal. 2010;9:42.
- Natural medicines in the clinical management of anxiety. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed May 24, 2012.
- Kava linked to liver damage. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/news/alerts/kava. Accessed May 24, 2012.
- Mayo Clinic statement: Recommendations regarding the safety concern with citalopram (Celexa) therapy. Mayo Clinic. http://mayoweb.mayo.edu/mfpfc-cmte/1202citalopramStatement.pdf. Accessed June 5, 2012.
- Jacka FN, et al. Association of Western and traditional diets with depression and anxiety in women. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2010;167:305.
- Teschke R, et al. Risk of kava hepatotoxicity and the FDA consumer advisory. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2010;304:2174.
- Valerian. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/valerian. Accessed June 5, 2012.
- Miyasaka LS, et al. Passiflora for anxiety disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004518.pub2/abstract. Accessed June 5, 2012.
- Support & programs. National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?section=Find_Support. Accessed June 5, 2012.
- Getting support. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. http://www.adaa.org/finding-help/getting-support. Accessed June 5, 2012.
- Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Accessed Aug. 26, 2011.
- Anxiety Disorders Program. Mayo Clinic. http://mayoresearch.mayo.edu/mayo/research/psych/anxiety.cfm. Accessed Sept. 9, 2011.
- Moore KM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 12, 2011.
- Whiteside SP (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 25, 2011.
- Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents (fact sheet). National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders-in-children-and-adolescents/index.shtml. Accessed Oct. 13, 2011.