Almost everyone experiences occasional feelings of anxiety or worry. But when it starts to interfere with work, family, and other aspects of daily life, it’s time to get help. Your primary care doctor is an excellent place to start if anxiety is impacting your life.
What Is Anxiety?
Many of us experience feelings of worry and low-level situational anxiety. But when worry becomes pervasive and challenging to control, it may be classified as an anxiety disorder.
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
People with anxiety disorders often have recurring intrusive thoughts and often find themselves avoiding situations because of fear or worry. According to the APA, anxiety disorders can also manifest physical symptoms, including sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
The Mayo Clinic has identified several types of anxiety disorders. Patients may have one or more than one diagnosis. Some of the most common include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent and excessive anxiety that may be difficult to control and affect physical health.
- Social anxiety disorder involves high levels of fear and avoidance of social situations because of embarrassment or self-consciousness.
- Agoraphobia is when patients fear places or situations that might cause them to panic or feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.
- Phobias occur when particular objects or situations cause major anxiety.
- Some people with anxiety disorders experience panic attacks, sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes. If a patient has repeated panic attacks, they may be diagnosed with panic disorder.
What Are The Risk Factors for Anxiety?
Anyone can experience anxiety and anxiety disorders. However, some factors may put you at higher risk. The Mayo Clinic has identified several risk factors:
- Medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, thyroid conditions, respiratory disorders, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and some types of tumors
- Withdrawal from or misuse of drugs or alcohol
- Personality type
- Other mental health conditions, including depression
- Family history of anxiety disorder
When Should I Seek Help for Anxiety?
Occasional worry is something almost everyone experiences. But if your anxiety starts to interfere with your daily life or cause physical symptoms, it’s time to connect with a healthcare provider. The Mayo Clinic has identified several signs that mean it’s time to get help. And remember, if you have suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seek emergency help right away.
- Worrying begins to interfere with relationships, work or other aspects of daily life.
- Your worry or fear is difficult to control on your own.
- You feel depressed or have trouble with drug or alcohol use.
- Your anxiety impacts your physical health.
What Are My Treatment Options for Anxiety?
If you feel that anxiety is getting out of control, your primary care provider is an excellent place to start. Getting help early can set a course for managing anxiety in a healthy way. A conversation with your trusted primary care doctor, PA or NP can get the ball rolling. At Comprehensive Primary Care, our providers take a holistic four-pronged approach to treating anxiety.
- We start with an emphasis on self-care. Exercise, healthy eating and sleep can go a long way towards addressing anxiety.
- Psychotherapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatment modalities for anxiety. Now, there are even apps with tools that help individuals manage anxiety and stress using this proven method.
- Medication, when appropriate, can help reduce anxiety. We occasionally prescribe short-term medications for severe anxiety or panic attacks. Some patients also benefit from SSRI/SNRI medications (including common antidepressants like Lexapro, Prozac and Zoloft) on a longer-term basis.
- Many patients find that spirituality and mindfulness practices can help them find strength and purpose. Prayer, meditation, journaling are all beneficial in managing anxiety.
If you’re concerned that anxiety symptoms are getting harder to handle, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. They can check for underlying or related health conditions, prescribe medications, and refer you to a mental health specialist if you decide therapy is needed. The connections between our mental and physical health are clear. At Comprehensive Primary Care, our ongoing focus on our patients’ overall wellness gives us a unique perspective. We take a holistic approach to caring for each patient, with attention to both body and mind.