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When Should You See a Doctor for Anxiety?

October 25, 2017 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Knowing when you should see a doctor for anxiety symptoms can lead to meta-anxiety, or anxiety about anxiety. Learn when you should see a doctor for anxiety.

As life-disrupting and misery-creating as anxiety can be, it’s often difficult to know when you should see a doctor about anxiety symptoms. Learning when you need anxiety help will help you feel more confident and less anxious about your decision. Use the following information to help you decide if and when you should see a doctor for anxiety.

If you worry about your anxiety symptoms and wonder if you should see a doctor, then maybe you also worry if seeing a doctor would be silly or pointless because maybe your anxiety isn't actually that bad. This type of worry is a common feature of anxiety known as meta-anxiety, or anxiety about your anxiety.

For those of us who have experienced it, meta-anxiety is not only obnoxious but can be paralyzing. Having anxiety about when you should see a doctor for anxiety can get in the way of treatment. There are times when a trip to the doctor to discuss your anxiety is a very good idea that can help you move forward past anxiety.

When Should You See Your Doctor for Anxiety Symptoms?

  • Whether you are experiencing anxiety symptoms for the first time or your existing symptoms are worsening, a trip to the doctor is important. Whenever you have new or worsening symptoms regarding anything, a check-up is in order. You’ll establish a baseline that will be used to measure progress or regression.
  • You should see a doctor for anxiety, especially generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder symptoms or the experience of panic attacks, to rule out underlying causes of your anxiety. Many medical conditions either mimic anxiety or have anxiety as a symptom and need to be treated directly.
  • Checking in with him/her about over-the-counter medicines and herbal treatments for anxiety can help you get to the bottom of the problem. According to WebMD, some of these supplements contain chemicals that worsen anxiety symptoms.1
  • You should see your doctor for anxiety if you feel that it has taken over your life and is negatively affecting your thoughts, feelings, and actions. A visit to your doctor about what is happening is important to get anxiety treatment recommendations. He/she might talk to you about medication and give you a prescription, and/or might refer you to a reputable therapist or psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders.
  • Always see your doctor, or go straight to the emergency department of your local hospital, if you are having suicidal thoughts.

Where Should You Start When You Need to See a Doctor for Anxiety?

Your general doctor can be an asset in your anxiety treatment. While these practitioners don’t specialize in psychiatric disorders, they are versed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Anxiety is common, and doctors, in general, know how to begin treatment.

Doctors aren’t psychotherapists or counselors, however, and will stick to the physical symptoms and medical aspects of anxiety. They are in a position to know of community resources plus can give you a referral to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist if you’d like one.

When you see your doctor about your anxiety symptoms, you will be taking an important step in getting back your life. Anxiety and meta-anxiety won’t forever be in the way of happiness and your ability to thrive.

In the below video, I discuss meta-anxiety. I invite you to tune in.

APA Reference
NCC, T. (2017, October 25). When Should You See a Doctor for Anxiety?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2017/10/when-to-see-your-doctor-about-your-anxiety-symptoms



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Grace
says:
July, 15 2019 at 10:48 am
I have been experiencing panic attacks for years and nothing seems to work. I now have them almost daily and they are so severe that I have to lie down to get them to go away. They come upon me suddenly, even when I am not stressed or panicked in any way. Not sure what is going on. Went to the doctor who just wants to treat me with drugs which frightens me as I do not want to get addicted or reliant on them.
July, 18 2019 at 10:11 am
Hi Grace,
Panic attacks are terrible, and I'm sorry you are experiencing severe ones daily. Have you considered seeing a therapist? Therapists help people develop strategies and tools to help panic attacks when they happen as well as ways to reduce and even eliminate them. This resource can help you locate one: Types of Mental Health Counselors: Finding a Good One - https://dev.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-counselors-finding-a-good-one. Panic attacks are treatable (often without medication). You don't have to live with this forever.
Grace
says:
January, 30 2019 at 5:12 pm
I have been anxious for the past 3 weeks and this makes me up all night. I can't sleep for and stay asleep. I think it's affecting my work and daily routine
February, 2 2019 at 1:30 pm
Hi Grace,
One of the hallmarks of an anxiety disorder is that affects your life in the way that you describe. Even if you're not experiencing an anxiety disorder, your anxiety is bothering you a great deal. Seeming a doctor or a therapist to discuss what you're experiencing could be very helpful. A therapist can help you start working on reducing anxiety right away (of course, reducing it does take time and is a process, but it's one that can be very successful.) While this is undoubtedly an awful experience right now, it doesn't have to stay that way.
Aditya
says:
September, 10 2018 at 10:35 am
hi,
i think my friend is facing this issue. but he is on extrime level. he can't reply on anything at present time. he self harm hinself i think 2 times. and start crying with no reason. kindly suggest should i take him to doctor or any meditation required
September, 10 2018 at 2:50 pm
Hi Aditya,
I think you are wise in thinking that your friend could benefit from seeing a doctor. Professional help might help him a great deal. A mental health professional such as a psychologist or therapist might be the best option, but if it's hard to find or get an appointment with one, a medical doctor is a good option, too. I included some resources for finding help below. Regarding medication, I'm unable to know if medication is required, but a doctor or therapist will be able to assess that. Your friend is fortunate to have you for this level of support. It sometimes doesn't seem like it, but simply being a caring presence in someone's life makes a big difference.

Where to Find Mental Health Help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/i-need-mental-help-where-to-find-mental-health-help

Types of Mental Health Doctors and How to Find One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-doctors-and-how-to-find-one

Types of Mental Health Counselors: Finding a Good One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-counselors-finding-a-good-one

Shreya
says:
August, 15 2018 at 10:23 am
Hi I think I'm having anxiety issues. I'm not sure about it. But I've done a whole lot of study on the internet to find out about its symptoms and all the online tests I've taken show either Chronic Depression or Severe Anxiety.
I took the Goldberg Depression test online which scored me 94%.
I self harm to avoid the suicidal tendencies. And I'm constantly anxious about anything and everything I do.
Can you help me by telling whether the online tests by standard websites reliable or not?
August, 17 2018 at 8:02 pm
Hello Shreya,
Your question is a very good one and shows a great deal of insight. The reliability of online tests is different from tests (even the same, or similar, tests) taken in a clinical setting. Online tests are reliable if they're just used as a tool to help you communicate with a mental health professional or even to better understand your symptoms. Online, self-administered tests aren't reliable for diagnosis. You seem very aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions and how they fit together. This is going to make the process of overcoming depression, anxiety, and self-harm a bit easier right off the bat. (It's never a quick, "easy" process, but it certainly doesn't have to be a long, heavy battle, either). It could be a good next step to take your information to a doctor or mental health professional to see if he/she and you agree with your test results after talking about them. Keep using your strengths as you move forward. You will move forward.
Ian
says:
July, 30 2018 at 9:18 am
I've had anxiety for a lot of years but recently its really started to take over my life. I always think of going to the doctors but just getting out the house these days puts me into a massive attack of anxiety that I can't deal with at times. I can't sleep for anything more than an hour or two, my breathing and heart rate feels constantly increased, shakes/muscle twitching, i can't switch off off/relax at all and the dreaded panic attacks.
August, 2 2018 at 1:39 pm
Hi Ian,
When anxiety begins to take over your life like this, getting professional help can make a very positive difference. When anxiety keeps you trapped inside, it is indeed difficult to do so. Do you have someone you trust who could accompany you to an appointment and help you deal with anxiety attacks that might happen? Also, online counseling is becoming a popular and reliable source of help. Two reputable sources are talkspace.com and betterhelp.com (HealthyPlace has no connection to either of these, nor do we endorse any single organization either online or off because each individual is different, and what works great for one person may not work as well for someone else. We like to provide a variety of resources for people to investigate.)

These resources might be helpful in finding professional help that you're comfortable with:

Where to Find Mental Health Help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/i-need-mental-help-where-to-find-mental-health-help



Types of Mental Health Doctors and How to Find One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-doctors-and-how-to-find-one



Types of Mental Health Counselors: Finding a Good One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-counselors-finding-a-good-one

While anxiety makes it difficult to find help, doing so despite the extreme discomfort can be very healing.
Mina
says:
July, 23 2018 at 9:07 pm
It sure was nice when you said that if the person ever feels like their anxiety feelings are getting worse, it is best to consult a doctor so that the progress can be monitored. If so, then I will start looking for a doctor to help my little sister out since she has been showing signs of anxiety for a while now. I am not sure if her condition worsened, but I know that it is affecting her, so she needs help. Thank you for sharing.
July, 24 2018 at 12:04 pm
Hi Mina,
I'm so glad that this was helpful. It's wonderful that you are so supportive of your little sister. That alone will go a long way in helping her, on top of any professional help you find.
Abbie
says:
July, 22 2018 at 1:47 am
Yes Abbie doctor talk axison worrying sick
unknown
says:
July, 16 2018 at 7:43 pm
hello, so im not quite sure if what im expieriencing is anxiety, i think it is but im not sure. all i can do is explain what ive been experiencing and maybe you can give me some insight or tips on what i should do.
im 21 years old, often randomly i have diarrhea & my stomach hurts, i feel nausea, butterflies. this happens randomly and normally seems to happen when im going somewhere or doing something other than sitting at home.
ive been noticing my appetite has decreased and i dont eat much in the day and when i do its a poor meal, i crave sweets all the time. i also feel tired alot and just out of energy when i get up and sometimes just checking the mail makes me out of energy yet i dont sleep til 4am & wake up around noon.
i often think about events that havent happened yet or things im doing the next day and i start feeling sick to my stomach? not bad but just enough to make me feel uneasy.
i also have never went out on dates or went out with any friends ever in my entire life.
i also dont have a job other than working with family or a license. its not that i dont want these things i do!! i just cant seem to do them?! im not sure what is wrong or if im imagining somethings wrong but what do you think?
July, 18 2018 at 2:27 pm
Hi there,
I'm so sorry to read about what you've been experiencing. HealthPlace can't diagnose or provide thoughts on what someone might be experiencing. Have you considered seeing a doctor or mental health professional? He or she can help figure out what's going on and then help you treat it so you can overcome it. These resources can help you find good treatment:

Where to Find Mental Health Help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/i-need-mental-help-where-to-find-mental-health-help

Types of Mental Health Doctors and How to Find One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-doctors-and-how-to-find-one

Types of Mental Health Counselors: Finding a Good One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-counselors-finding-a-good-one

Matt
says:
July, 16 2018 at 3:52 am
Hi Ms. Peterson,

If you don't mind, could I ask you about something. I've always had anxiety, ever since a child, but I've never asked a doctor about it. I guess as a guy, I've always felt a since of shame because I felt it was a weakness. And my anxiety is only triggered with big life changes--for example when I went to university and moved in the first week was Hell. Usually I can come out of it within a couple days to a week, longest spell was on and off for three months once. But my main symptoms are I can't eat, my chest and throat are tight and my heart is racing along with my mind replaying the same worries over and over, so when I try to eat sometimes it just doesn't want to stay down. And I can go days with just a couple hundred calories each day which just makes everything else feel worse. It's a cycle really. My anxiety has been really good but I'm currently stressed about beginning grad. school and I just don't want to go through this cycle until I get adjusted. Do you think a doctor would help me?
July, 18 2018 at 2:21 pm
Hi Matt,
Society really needs an attitude adjustment in so many ways. It's frustrating that men are expected to "man up," don't show anything that might be considered weak by some people, and certainly not reach out for help. These are all ridiculous expectations. Anxiety is the most common of all mental disorders, affecting tens of millions of people, and it's pretty much evenly divided between men and women. This means that doctors and mental health professionals know that anxiety is a human thing and they want to treat both men and women. You seem to have excellent insight into your experiences with anxiety, which will help make treatment more efficient and effective (not necessarily fast, unfortunately). While I can't make any guarantees, I will say that a doctor would be able to help you. It's worth checking out. Some doctors are better than others, so if you happen to see someone who doesn't take you seriously or you don't feel a connection with, it's okay to try someone else. Good luck to you both with your anxiety and with grad school!
Win htet aung
says:
July, 4 2018 at 8:49 pm
I am a Asian and I struggling about my sexuality. It is a big deal in Asian. I feel symptoms from panick attack. I don’t know what to do. I can’t tell a general doctor everything and the doctor thinks I want attention. But I can’t explain her because I don’t trust her. I am thinking about seeing a psychiatrist but I don’t know should I see. Should I?
July, 5 2018 at 10:14 am
Hello Win htet aung,
Finding a doctor or therapist that you can trust and who will listen without telling you you want attention (that seems to be a common response across all cultures when someone doesn't know how to help) is very important. It's good that you are looking for better options and not giving up. Seeing a psychiatrist might be useful; however, psychiatrists typically deal with the medical aspects of the brain. They see if there is an illness to diagnose, and they prescribe medication. That might not be right for you. The below information and links might help you find the right kind of help. Some might not be relevant in your country, but they might give you ideas for local resources.

Online counseling is becoming increasingly popular, especially for those whose access to in-person counseling is limited. Two reputable sources are talkspace.com and betterhelp.com (HealthyPlace has no connection to either of these, nor do we endorse any single organization either online or off because each individual is different, and what works great for one person may not work as well for someone else. We like to provide a variety of resources for people to investigate.)

Where to Find Mental Health Help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/i-need-mental-help-where-to-find-mental-health-help

Types of Mental Health Doctors and How to Find One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-doctors-and-how-to-find-one

Types of Mental Health Counselors: Finding a Good One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-counselors-finding-a-good-one

I hope that something here leads to a good doctor or therapist for you. Therapy can be incredibly valuable when you find the right person.
Kairi Gainsborough
says:
June, 25 2018 at 7:01 pm
My husband has anxiety, and I really think he should talk to a doctor about it. I think he is experiencing what you described as "meta-anxiety" because talking about making an appointment makes it worse for him. I'll have to look for a good doctor in our area that he would feel comfortable talking about this with.
June, 30 2018 at 9:49 am
Hi Kairi,
You're doing something very helpful for your husband: showing support and caring. I'm not sure if you need these, but here are some articles that might help you find a therapist for your husband Your comment about him feeling comfortable with someone raises a very good point. The foundation of successful therapy is the relationship between counselor and client. It's okay to try different therapists to find the right fit. You and your husband can both get through this!

Where to Find Mental Health Help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/i-need-mental-help-where-to-find-mental-health-help

Types of Mental Health Doctors and How to Find One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-doctors-and-how-to-find-one

Types of Mental Health Counselors: Finding a Good One: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-illness-overview/types-of-mental-health-counselors-finding-a-good-one
Emery Jean Chambers
says:
June, 1 2018 at 8:35 pm
Thank you for mentioning that when a person starts feeling the signs of anxiety or feel that their symptoms are worsening, they should immediately see a doctor. I am aware that my little sister has been suffering from sudden feelings of anxiety when she was younger, though the feelings are manageable. The problem is that it seems to be starting to affect even her job. That is why I think it is best for her to see a professional.
June, 4 2018 at 6:31 pm
Hi Emery,
It's great that you are in a position to observe changes in your sister. That insight could be very valuable to her and to any professional she sees. With her symptoms beginning to affect specific areas of her life, getting professional help could be beneficial. I hope that conversations go well.

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