For this month’s post, I want to focus on anxiety, something we’ve all dealt with at one time or another. Simply put, anxiety is the body’s normal reaction to stress. Often called the “flight or fight” response, it involves the production of adrenaline to help the body cope with whatever stressor is imminent. Problems can arise when the body’s response is out of proportion to the actual situation, sometimes even appearing when no danger is present.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Anxiety
We’re a year into the pandemic, and while there is hope with the vaccine rollout, COVID-19 cases and deaths are still occurring regularly. As a result, there is increased isolation, virtual learning, unemployment, and financial concerns for many people.
It’s no surprise, then, that the pandemic has added to the already-prevalent mental health crisis in our country. According to a recent survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 40 percent of respondents are grappling with at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, with over 30 percent reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder.
How Your Primary Care Physician Can Help
Although it may be difficult, speaking to your doctor about your anxiety is an important first step forward in your recovery process. Just as you would seek professional help if you were experiencing flu symptoms, you should turn to your doctor for guidance with your mental health.
To start, be prepared with a detailed list of your experiences – the more information, the better! Remember that your doctor’s office is a safe space. Take a few deep breaths, and state, as clearly as you can, exactly how you’re struggling.
- Make a list of your physical symptoms (sweating, increased heart rate, and shortness of breath, to name a few) as well as your psychological symptoms (such as trouble concentrating, memory difficulties, and poor sleep).
- Outline how your anxiety impacts your daily life. For instance, do you struggle to say yes to an invitation to coffee with a friend or a family dinner? Do you have trouble completing your to-do list at work? Do you often feel hopeless or lethargic?
Your doctor may ask you to complete a questionnaire to give them a deeper understanding of how and when your anxiety presents itself. Then, together, you can come up with a treatment plan, which may include medication, coping strategies and/or therapy, lifestyle changes, or a combination of all three. There is no “one size fits all” approach for treating anxiety, but working with your primary care physician will ensure that you determine the best approach for you.