Anxiety, no big deal?!
Most times, people don’t think twice about going to the doctor when a new or persistent physical ailment arises. The same cannot be said about people who think they may be suffering from a mental health disorder. Society has stigmatized mental health for so long that people are embarrassed to ask their own doctors for help. Fortunately, many doctors’ offices have now added a mental health survey to the required paperwork that patients fill out prior to their scheduled visits. This is a great opportunity for doctors to pinpoint where unexplained physical issues may be stemming from— sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder can appear as physical problems such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, chronic joint pain, and fatigue. Addressing patients’ mental health can help reduce the need for medication or further diagnostic testing.
So, what does this mean for people who are scared to ask for help? Well, since doctors are now screening for depression and anxiety, bringing up mental health concerns has become less intimidating. As someone who has experienced this firsthand, I recommend being as honest as possible with your doctor. It’s the first step to obtaining the help you need and deserve. I also recommend doing your own research in preparation for your doctor’s visit. In this way, you can narrow down your symptoms and prepare specific questions for your doctor to ensure that your concerns are addressed.
Given the current state of the world, let’s focus our attention on anxiety. According to the World Economic Forum, in 2019 approximately 275 million people were found to be suffering from anxiety, making it the world’s biggest mental health problem at that time. In less than one year, we were hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not difficult to imagine that this statistic may have significantly increased since then. Anxiety is sometimes confused with normal feelings of nervousness, such as anxiety before a job interview or before an important exam. However, anxiety disorders involve excessive fear or concern typically accompanied by muscle tension and avoidance behavior (APA). People who suffer from anxiety disorders experience symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, sleep problems, and an inability to control feelings of worry (NIMH).
How does a person navigate the world without their anxiety controlling their lives? It’s not easy, but it is possible. If you or someone you know is living with anxiety, I hope you consider putting into practice some of my next suggestions. The first and most important decision you need to make is to accept that your anxiety exists. After that, if you’re not comfortable asking for help yet, do some research. Use the internet to get scholarly information on anxiety and read through blogs by people who have been living with it. Make Google your best friend! There are lots of groups, apps, and individual self-care tools on the internet, many at no cost. If you have any social media accounts, I encourage you to follow users that positively influence and motivate others to live healthier lives. Some of my Instagram favorites are: @namicommunicate, @selfcareisforeveryone, @anxiety_wellbeing and of course @breakthestigma!
Once you’ve become an expert on the goings on in your mind and body, try reaching out for help from family, friends, and mental health professionals. I know that being vulnerable about your feelings and intimate thoughts is hard, but you will be surprised how many people can relate and would be incredibly willing to help you out. Mental health professionals can assist you with identifying and managing the factors that exacerbate your anxiety. With so many technological advancements and the current in-person restrictions due to the pandemic, teletherapy has become very popular. Companies such as TalkSpace and BetterHelp offer chat, video, and/or phone therapy. Depending on your state restrictions, receiving in-person therapy might be a possibility. However you choose to obtain therapy services, always remember that this is another form of support and one of the best ways to learn how to manage your anxiety symptoms. It’s ok to ask for help. We need each other to survive and grow. 🌟 VL