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How Can a Medical Professional Help?

By Eileen Bailey

Anxiety can often be managed by self-help strategies but this sometimes is not enough. Sometimes anxiety can interfere with your ability to go to work or school. It can also cause problems in relationships and in performing every day tasks. When this happens, it is time to see a medical professional to determine if anxiety is present and what type of treatment would be helpful.

What Will a Medical Professional Do?

A medical professional should complete a thorough physical examination. The doctor will be checking to make sure your symptoms are not being caused by a medical condition.

Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as heart palpitations or heart pounding, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking, stomachaches, headaches, insomnia or tiredness. Often, these physical symptoms are why people seek medical help for anxiety.

There are a number of medical conditions that may share some of these symptoms, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Migraine disease
  • Thyroid problems
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Asthma

Your physician may order lab tests to further rule out any physical causes of these symptoms.

Finding a Specialist

Once your primary medical professional has ruled out any physical causes of your symptoms, you should ask for a referral to a doctor or therapist that specializes in treating anxiety.

According to Helpguide.org, there are a number of places you can find a medical professional:

  • Talk with your doctor’s office and ask for a referral to a therapist in your area
  • Contact counseling centers, hospitals or mental health clinics and ask for a listing of therapists.
  • Contact the psychology department of a college or university. Many will have listing of local professionals.
  • Contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org)
  • Use the referral service available at Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA)

Team Approach to Anxiety

The most common types of treatment for anxiety disorders are medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Therapists will work with patients on cognitive-behavioral therapy, but cannot prescribe medication (unless they are also medical doctors). It is important, therefore, if you are taking medication as well as receiving therapy, that all medical professionals communicate with one another regarding your treatment.

Many medical professionals will naturally provide follow-up information and make calls to other medical professionals as both a courtesy and to share information about a patient. If either your doctor or therapist seems hesitant or does not complete this follow-up, request they do so. Having a team approach offers a patient the best possible care.

For more information:

Group Therapy for Social Anxiety

Deciding About Medication for Anxiety

Obstacles to Recovery - Avoiding the Doctor's Visit

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