Diagnosing and Treating Anxiety Online
Most people experience anxiety from time to time — it's a very normal emotion. Anxiety can come and go, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. Anxiety can be an important emotion, as it alerts us to potential danger or harm, and propels us into action or preparation for an important event. But for some people, their feelings of anxiety may last weeks, months, years, and can even be constantly present. Sometimes, these anxious emotions can become so severe that they begin to interfere with your daily life. The severity of the anxiety and worry can also become out of proportion to the actual likelihood or impact of the anticipated event. This is when anxiety is considered to be a disorder.
Some risk factors for all types of anxiety disorders include:
- A shy or nervous temperament as a child
- Stressful and negative life or environmental events in early childhood or adulthood
- A family history of anxiety or other mental illnesses
Medical Issues Related to Anxiety
Researchers have found that certain physical health conditions, such as thyroid problems or heart disease, can produce or aggravate anxiety symptoms. Other examples of medical concerns that can be linked to anxiety include:
- Respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
- Drug misuse or withdrawal
- Withdrawal from alcohol, anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines), or other medications
- Chronic pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Anxiety can reveal itself in many distinct physical symptoms so it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate anxiety from other medical concerns. For example, racing heart, shortness of breath, and a tight feeling in your chest can all overlap with some cardiac and respiratory symptoms. Working with a medical professional is important to understand your physiological symptoms and their causes.
Symptoms of anxiety can also overlap with other mental health diagnoses, which is why working with a mental health professional can be important in best understanding your symptoms and how to address them. Some disorders that can present with anxiety include:
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Personality disorders
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Drug or alcohol intoxication
- Other major mental illnesses
The causes of an individual person’s anxiety are difficult to know, which makes prevention challenging. Fortunately, there are some widely accepted approaches to reducing anxiety over the long term:
- Keep stress in check by going on regular walks or taking an online exercise class. Regular physical activity can do wonders for anxiety and depression.
- Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Keep your mental energy stable by avoiding greasy, sugary, high-fat, and processed foods.
- Write down your stress and anxiety triggers.. Keeping a journal can help you identify obstacles to address on your own or with a therapist.
- Challenge your negative thoughts and worry. Pay attention to patterns of negative or anxious thinking. Look for opportunities to challenge, contradict, or fact-check anxious thoughts and replace them with more balanced or neutral thoughts.
Discussing Anxiety with an Online Therapist
During a video consult on Amwell, your therapist or psychiatrist will ask you a series of targeted questions to make an accurate diagnosis and determine the best treatment plan for you. This is based on the duration and severity of symptoms, and your medical history. You may also discuss your work, home environment, and daily habits.
Once a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will go over the risks and benefits of the various treatment plans. Depending on the cause and severity of the anxiety, your treatment plan may include:
- Medications to help the symptoms. These can include types of benzodiazepines or antidepressants.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Stress reduction techniques
If you’ve been worrying more than normal lately, make time to talk it over with a therapist. It could be the first step to feeling more like yourself.