You may start by seeing your primary care provider to find out if your anxiety could be
related to your physical health. He or she can check for signs of an underlying medical
condition that may need treatment.
However, you may need to see a mental health specialist if you have severe anxiety. A
psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health
conditions. A psychologist and certain other mental health professionals can diagnose
anxiety and provide counseling (psychotherapy).
To help diagnose an anxiety disorder, your mental health provider may:
● Give you a psychological evaluation. This involves discussing your
thoughts, feelings and behavior to help pinpoint a diagnosis and check for
related complications. Anxiety disorders often occur along with other mental
health problems — such as depression or substance misuse — which can
make diagnosis more challenging.
● Compare your symptoms to the criteria in the DSM-5. Many doctors use
the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose an
The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications. You
may benefit most from a combination of the two. It may take some trial and error to
discover which treatments work best for you.
Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves
working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. It can be an effective
treatment for anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for
anxiety disorders. Generally a short-term treatment, CBT focuses on teaching you
specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you’ve
avoided because of anxiety.
CBT includes exposure therapy, in which you gradually encounter the object or situation
that triggers your anxiety so you build confidence that you can manage the situation and
Several types of medications are used to help relieve symptoms, depending on the type
of anxiety disorder you have and whether you also have other mental or physical health
issues. For example:
● Certain antidepressants are also used to treat anxiety disorders.
● An anti-anxiety medication called buspirone may be prescribed.
● In limited circumstances, your doctor may prescribe other types of
medications, such as sedatives, also called benzodiazepines, or beta
blockers. These medications are for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms
and are not intended to be used long term.
Talk with Dr. Li about benefits, risks and possible side effects of medications.