How To Talk to a Doctor About Anxiety

Wednesday, June 7 2023

If you’re living with anxiety symptoms and it’s been taking a toll on your physical health, you may need to seek qualified medical advice. This can be scary, but you’re not alone: As many as 30% of adults are affected by different types of anxiety at some point.

Anxiety is much more than just feeling nervous in social situations or before a big event. Generalized anxiety disorder is a serious medical condition that can make everyday life challenging and is sometimes accompanied by disruptive physical symptoms like panic attacks, elevated heart rate, difficulty concentrating, and even shortness of breath.

Below, learn how to identify common anxiety symptoms and when to know if you or a family member should talk to a mental health care provider.

Signs you should talk to your doctor about anxiety

Anxiety is a normal human response to external stressors. But when this happens without a trigger, it can be debilitating.

Individuals with anxiety and panic disorder may experience severe physical issues in their daily life that make it hard to function. People with a social anxiety disorder may have extreme difficulty being in public or engaging in social situations, which can worsen the problem by exacerbating feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Here are some indicators that it’s time to speak with a mental health professional about your concerns:

  • You’ve been experiencing health issues that you think are related to feelings of anxiety.
  • Your feelings of anxiousness and panic make it difficult for you to get out of bed or complete important tasks.
  • Your anxiety symptoms have had a negative impact on your relationships.
  • You are having more difficulty getting enough rest than usual.
  • You no longer have much of an appetite or find it difficult to eat even foods you generally enjoy.
  • It’s becoming harder for you to focus and stay on task at work or school.
  • Your mood is generally negative or you’ve been more irritable than usual.
  • Your feelings of anxiety are so overwhelming that you’ve considered harming yourself or someone else.

How do I talk to my doctor about anxiety?

Talking to a medical professional about your anxiety can feel intimidating, but it’s an important first step in managing your mental health. Here are some things you can do to make the process go smoothly:

Get prepared

Talking to any medical professional is nerve-wracking when you have anxiety. If you’re talking to your doctor about the anxiety, this can be even more stressful. It’s not out of the ordinary for people to forget what they want to say or even have a panic attack in the office just from thinking and talking about their symptoms.

You can help mitigate potential miscommunications during your visit by preparing beforehand. Write down your concerns and the questions you want to ask and have them on hand when meeting with your physician.

Be open and honest

Your doctor can’t help you if you’re not honest with them, so it’s crucial to be open about why you’re there and what you’ve been experiencing. They’re not looking to lecture you, and they won’t judge you based on your job or what activities you like to do in your spare time.

Talk about how you’ve been feeling

Try your best to put your feelings into words to help your doctor better understand where you’re coming from. This is where writing things down can really come in handy. If you’ve been feeling angry, tell them. If you’ve been having thoughts about self-harm, you should tell them that, too. Don’t be afraid to say what’s really happening so you can get the right kind of help.

Prepare a few questions for your doctor

It would help if you also consider a few questions to ask your doctor when you meet them. For example, if they recommend a certain kind of treatment, you can follow up with a question about why they feel it’s a good fit for your specific needs. Or, you can ask about a treatment approach you’ve heard of and if they can help you get connected.

Questions your doctor might ask you

Your doctor will likely have some questions for you, too. Your answers can help give them a better idea of your symptoms and how they manifest throughout the day so they can develop an effective treatment plan for you. Be prepared for questions like:

  • What are the major stressors in your life?
  • What physical symptoms are you experiencing?
  • When did the symptoms start?
  • What time of day are your symptoms the most prominent?
  • What makes your symptoms worse?
  • Is there anything that brings you relief? If so, what?
  • Do you drink alcohol or use any kind of drugs? If so, how much and how often?

Treatment and support for anxiety

There are many options for supporting and treating different types of anxiety disorders. Anxiety treatment may include medication, vitamin supplements, lifestyle adjustments, therapy, and other therapeutic approaches.

There’s no single “best” treatment for anxiety, and each person’s care plan will look different. That said, there are some consistencies between cases. Individuals seeking support for anxiety disorders will go through a process of:

Addressing any underlying health conditions

It’s important to address any underlying health conditions that could be causing symptoms of anxiety. These issues can be indistinguishable from those caused by anxiety-related mental health conditions, so it’s crucial to see your primary care physician for a complete workup to rule out any physical health concern. Your doctor can also make a referral to a specialist if they suspect a serious issue.

Making lifestyle changes

Your lifestyle significantly impacts your overall health, including the food you eat and the activities you do during the day. Changing behaviors that harm your mental and physical health can help reduce the intensity and frequency of anxiety symptoms as much as medication or counseling.


  • Quitting smoking or using nicotine
  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol intake
  • Reducing your intake of fatty and processed foods
  • Increasing your intake of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats
  • Getting 30 minutes of exercise each day
  • Increasing your social support

While these changes may seem simple, they can make a big difference in how you feel. For example, alcohol may prevent you from entering REM sleep, making you feel tired and on edge all day. Cardio exercise trains your nervous system to manage adrenaline, which could be helpful during panic attacks.

Counseling or talk therapy

Counseling and therapy can be extremely helpful for people with anxiety disorders to explore their condition's causes and learn how to manage their symptoms more effectively. Some common types of therapy that are effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps people better understand their thoughts and feelings and gives them the tools to challenge intrusive thoughts.
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Instead of challenging anxious thoughts, this type of therapy teaches individuals how to tolerate feelings that cause distress. This is especially helpful in circumstances that can’t be immediately changed. For example, if a person has an anxiety attack during a school or work function that they can’t leave, DBT skills may help them cope in the moment.
  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy includes many treatment methods like CBT, DBT, cognitive therapy, hypnotherapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and even art and music therapies. These may help people manage feelings of stress, panic, and anxiety in different ways as they go about their daily lives.
  • Support groups. Online and offline support groups can bring people with anxiety disorders together, helping people realize they’re not alone and providing access to peers dealing with similar issues. A support group can’t replace counseling and psychotherapy, but it can be a great addition to them.

Which kind of therapy works best for you depends on multiple factors like your trauma history and the severity of your symptoms. It may also take some trial and error to find a provider you feel comfortable with.

Taking medication

Some individuals  with anxiety take antidepressants or anxiety medication to help relieve their symptoms. These medicines include:

  • Beta-blockers to limit the body’s production of adrenaline and slow the heart
  • Antidepressants to lift mood and reduce feelings of impending doom
  • Anti-anxiety medications such as buspirone to decrease feelings of anxiety
  • Sleeping medications to help get enough rest at night
  • Antipsychotics to manage extreme or intrusive thoughts

Be sure to ask your doctor about the potential side effects of any medication that’s recommended to you as part of your treatment plan. Medication is often an effective treatment, but it’s important to know what to expect and how to manage any uncomfortable symptoms.

Connect with a SonderMind mental health provider today

Living with anxiety can be challenging, but taking control of your mental health with the right treatment is possible. SonderMind offers affordable, effective therapy to people with anxiety, panic, and related disorders. With both in-person and online options, our sessions are flexible and tailored to fit your needs.

Match with a SonderMind therapist today to take charge of your mental well-being and start your journey to a healthier life.

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