Everyone worries and feels anxious from time to time. But when anxiety doesn’t go away, it can interfere with work, school, and family. Persistent anxiety is a mental health condition that needs treatment. Not everyone with anxiety needs medication. However, medication can be vital to treating anxiety disorders, often combined with talk therapy. Several different types of drugs are available, and they work in different ways. If anxiety is a problem, your primary care provider can help you start on the road to recovery with advice, prescriptions, and referrals to mental health providers.
What Is Anxiety?
Occasional anxiety, worry, and stress are part of being human. However, anxiety disorders go beyond occasional temporary anxiety. You may have an anxiety disorder if you experience persistent and intense worry or fear in everyday situations. Other characteristics can include panic attacks and feelings of anxiety that are hard to control. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobia-related disorders.
What Are The Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders?
Let’s take a look at several common anxiety disorders and their symptoms:
- Patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder usually experience anxiety or fear that’s disproportionate to the situation. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Feeling restless, wound-up or on-edge
- Trouble concentrating
- Unexplained headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches
- Sleep problems, including trouble falling or staying asleep
- Panic Disorder: Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear, discomfort, or a sense of losing control, even when there is no apparent danger. Symptoms include:
Pounding or racing heart
Chest pain (some patients may confuse a panic attack with a heart attack)
Feelings of doom or loss of control
- According to NIMH, social anxiety disorder is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. Fear of social situations may feel extreme and may keep patients from favorite activities or make work and school stressful.
- Phobias involve an intense fear of specific types of objects or situations. Common phobias include flying, heights, injections, and blood. Agoraphobia is another common phobia that affects individuals’ ability to go out into the world. It involves the fear of enclosed or open spaces, crowds, and public transportation.
What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of Anxiety Disorders?
While it’s hard to isolate specific causes of anxiety disorders, risk factors include:
- Past trauma or exposure to stressful life events
- A family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions
- Some physical health conditions, including heart conditions
- Some medications prescribed for physical health diagnoses
- Use of caffeine and other substances
What Are Treatments for Anxiety Disorder?
Providers generally recommend talk therapy, medication, or both for patients with anxiety disorder.
- Talk therapy with a counselor or psychotherapist can help patients address anxiety disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on changing how you respond to situations, is particularly effective.
- Diet and exercise can help alleviate symptoms. Better sleep, more movement, improved nutrition, and reduced alcohol and caffeine use can also help.
- Mindfulness practices, including yoga and meditation, can help manage anxiety.
- Several medications can relieve symptoms and help patients return to work, school and favorite activities.
- Providers successfully treat anxiety using antidepressant medications. Some of the most commonly prescribed treatments include SSRIs (Lexapro and Paxil and Zoloft) and SNRIs (Cymbalta and Effexor).
- Your doctor can also prescribe another class of drugs, Benzodiazepines, for acute anxiety. Unlike SSRIs and SNRIs, which can take a few weeks for full effect, these medications are fast-acting. They can also help treat insomnia, a primary symptom of anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines include Ativan, Klonopin and Valium.
- Some patients successfully use beta blockers, commonly prescribed for high blood pressure, to combat the physical symptoms of anxiety, including rapid heartbeat, shaking, trembling and blushing.
Finding the medication that works best for you is often a process. An appointment with your primary care provider is an excellent place to start. Your provider will review your symptoms and medical history and recommend medication or refer you to a mental health provider. Many patients respond well to a combination of medication and talk therapy. Prescription drugs treat symptoms and help patients feel better as they tackle root issues with their therapists.
How Can My Primary Care Provider Help With Anxiety?
If you experience anxiety disorder symptoms, a checkup with your primary care provider is an excellent place to start. Numerous physical conditions can contribute to anxiety disorder, including chronic illness, sleep disorders and other diagnoses. Your PCP may recommend lifestyle changes and suggest medication. At Comprehensive Primary Care, mental health services are an integral part of our holistic approach to wellness. Our services include:
- Mental health screenings
- Counseling and referrals
- Medication management
- Diagnosis and treatment of behavioral problems, learning disorders, and ADHD
If you struggle with anxiety or another mental health concern, schedule an appointment with a CPC provider. It’s the first step to regaining control and returning to activities and social opportunities you love.