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:
•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?