I Think I Might Have an Anxiety Disorder: What do I do?

These days, at least one in five Americans reports that they suffer from extreme anxiety, or an anxiety disorder. It’s also not uncommon for someone struggling with anxiety to also be affected by depression (source here).

If you’re here, that means something has been happening in your life that makes you think you might have an anxiety disorder. Before we go over symptoms and potential treatment, let me remind you that 1) I’m not a doctor and 2) even if you do have an anxiety disorder, you are still loved and valued, and you’re not broken (I promise you).

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms:

The most common anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is characterized by persistent and excessive worry that is often hard to control. People with GAD may worry more about regular things than others would find “normal,” or worry about things when there is no apparent reason for concern. GAD is diagnosed if a person experiences excessive worry for the majority of at least six months, and has three of more symptoms of anxiety (such as feeling nervous, irritable or one edge, having an increased heart rate, feeling weak or tired, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and experiencing gastrointestinal problems). (source here)

GAD affects roughly 6.8 million adults, and women are twice as likely to be affected as men. It is considered to be highly treatable, and does not have to keep you from experiencing joy in your life!

Anxiety disorders can develop from any combination of various factors: including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events.

Treatment & Recovery:

Many years ago I was diagnosed with GAD and Panic Disorder. Because the Panic Disorder started to effect my every day life much more dramatically (and severely) than my GAD, I did talk to my doctor about prescribing medication.

I highly recommend that if medication is pursued, that it be taken in conjunction with therapy. Medication is considered to be a band-aid solution, meaning: if medication was to stop prematurely or without therapy, the preexisting issues would return.

There are various different types of medications available, so talking to your doctor about what symptoms you’re experiencing will help them to find what’s best for you. NOTE: finding the right medication takes time. If the first one you receive doesn’t help immediately, give it time and don’t hesitate to go back and request something else. For a comprehensive list of the type of medications available and how they function, click here.

The medication that I am currently on is called a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (or SSRI). An SSRI relieves symptoms by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin (the feel-good drug), which in turn leaves more serotonin available. However, common side effects of these medications include: insomnia, sexual dysfunction and weight gain. Side effects vary and aren’t guaranteed.

I highly recommend doing some research and considering therapy. Just like there are numerous medications available, there are numerous types of therapy available. Check out the different types here. Exposure therapy worked well for me when I was dealing with daily panic attacks. Once those resided, talk therapy was what I did.

Just like the first medication may not work for you, the first type of therapy – or your first therapist – may not be right for you. Keep at it, and try something else if the first thing doesn’t work!

If you’d like to know more about what i use to help my anxiety, you can check out this post.

And as always, my inbox is open – I’d love to connect with you, just send me a message!

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