Understanding how anxiety "works" is one of the keys to overcoming anxiety.
Identifying at last that I had anxiety was almost freeing for me. I spent so much of my life feeling a certain way and never understanding why. Terrified it was just who I was and that I would be stuck feeling this way forever.
Mental health was never a subject that was open to being talked about or acknowledged as legitimate while I was growing up. This can be confusing and scary for a child growing up.
Some people have the assumption that a person has to go through something extremely traumatic to start experiencing anxiety. We forget, however, that traumatic for a child and an adult may be very different. For some anxiety is simply predisposed.
Either way, recognising you have anxiety is step number one, what next?
Understanding how anxiety "works" is one of the keys to overcoming anxiety. This is not as easy as it is to type, believe me. But taking that first step is the biggest one you will take.
Consult with your GP
A consultation with your GP is a must if you suspect you have panic attacks or generalised anxiety.
These symptoms can be caused by a variety of physiological disorders, and you should rule them out as part of the diagnostic process. You should certainly have one complete physical after the onset of these symptoms.
The other anxiety disorders don't generally require a physical, because there isn't any reason to think that they are caused by another physical ailment. However, you might still want to consult your GP, especially if you have a long history with them and you feel comfortable talking to them. You might want his/her opinion about your situation, you might want a referral, or you might want to find out about possible medications you could use.
Be aware, however, that most GP, because they specialize in various aspects of physical health, have very little training in the area of anxiety disorders. What training they do have, with respect to overcoming anxiety, is usually limited to medications. They may often be surprisingly unaware of cognitive behavioural treatment for anxiety disorders, even though it is generally regarded as the treatment of choice. When it comes time to seek professional help for overcoming anxiety disorders, you will probably need to go elsewhere. But your GP can definitely point you in the right direction for that and even give you a referral.
Before you call for an appointment, make some written notes of what you want to discuss with your doctor. The doctor's staff will probably ask you why you want an appointment; tell them that you've been having some problems and summarize them, briefly.
What to Expect from Your GP
Your doctor should listen to your symptoms, review your history, ask questions, and offer feedback and recommendations for overcoming anxiety. Since most GPs are trained principally in physical health and medicine, there is no reason to expect him/her to be an expert in anxiety disorders. However, your physician should take your complaints seriously, evaluate them, and offer suggestions for finding additional help.
If you are having panic attacks and have never been tested for thyroid malfunction, for instance, you should receive such a test, because thyroid problems can sometimes cause a person to have panic-like symptoms. There are numerous physical conditions which can produce panic symptoms, and your doctor should evaluate you for those possibilities if that has never been done before.
However, if you have had those tests before, and your doctor assured you that you were in good health, do not push for continual retesting! Many people do this because they hate the idea that they may have an anxiety disorder, and instead hope to find a physical problem.
One set of tests is generally enough. If you need a second opinion for a particular reason, then get one. If you get more than two sets of tests, seriously consider the possibility that you are getting diverted from your task of overcoming anxiety!
When you have visited your GP and they have put a plan in place with you, whether it is with referrals or testing, you should feel a sense of relief. A plan is being put in place and you will not feel this way forever. I promise.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.