Asking About Anxiety: Who to See & How to Prepare


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Whether you’re starting a new job or diving back into dating apps after breaking off a long-term relationship, it’s totally normal to feel occasional anxiety — especially when you’re dealing with stressful situations.

But for some people, feelings of anxiety are much more persistent and severe. This can prevent you from doing daily tasks or engaging in certain activities, even if it’s just hanging out with friends. If this sounds like you, you may have an anxiety disorder. 

While anxiety affects roughly 7 million adults per year, anxiety disorders are very treatable. There are plenty of coping strategies and resources you can tap into for help, including healthcare professionals who specialize in anxiety.

There’s no one-size-fits-all pair of pants when it comes to anxiety disorders — they can range from panic disorders to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). These specialized experts can come up with the best treatment plan for you based on your symptoms and specific needs. Treatment can look like medication, therapy or a combination of both.

Who to See for Anxiety

There are a number of healthcare providers and services that offer support for treating anxiety disorders. Although some have very similar qualifications, there are a few key differences you should understand. 

The best ways to get professional help are through: 

  • Primary healthcare providers

  • Psychologists

  • Psychiatrists

  • Online psychiatry services 

Primary Healthcare Provider

Your primary healthcare provider (aka your primary care provider or PCP) is a great first stop on the train toward mental health recovery. You might know your PCP as that doctor who does your annual physical or gives you meds for the occasional sinus infection, but they can also provide mental health evaluations. 

A big benefit to seeing your PCP is that you already have a relationship with them, so it may be easier to chat about your struggles. Your primary care doctor can prescribe medication for an anxiety disorder, though they may refer you to a mental health professional with deeper expertise in treating your specific condition. 


A psychologist is an example of someone your PCP may refer you to if you have an anxiety disorder. Psychologists are clinically trained to help individuals with a wide variety of mental health conditions, be it anxiety disorders, depression or panic disorders.

They’ll use evidence based therapies which include coping skills and strategies to address your anxiety, creating a treatment plan based on your unique needs and circumstances.

Depending on the individual, you might see a psychologist for a short period (i.e., you’re feeling overwhelmed by a challenging life transition), or you might see them for years. While most psychologists aren’t licensed to prescribe medication, some states allow it with extra training.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) who treats mental health disorders, including substance abuse.

One of the biggest differences between psychologists and psychiatrists is the way they approach mental health disorders. Psychologists tend to view these conditions through more of a human behavioral lens, whereas psychiatrists are more focused on the biological and chemical factors that come into play.

Another difference is that psychiatrists are licensed to prescribe medication. If you think you might benefit from seeing one, our guide to choosing a psychiatrist goes into more detail.

At the end of the day, there’s no “right” answer for which kind of mental health professional to pick. The most important thing is that you seek help so you can get pointed in the right direction.

Online Psychiatry Service

If you don’t want to speak to your primary care provider for a referral — or the idea of meeting with someone in person to discuss your anxiety makes you feel even worse — there is another option.

Thanks to telepsychiatry services, you can chat with a licensed psychiatry provider online without leaving home. Not only do you get to avoid sitting in a waiting room, but you can even stay in your pajamas. It doesn’t get more convenient than that.  

(Related: Beta Blockers For Anxiety: Benefits & Risks)

How to Prepare for an Anxiety Doctor Visit

So you’re ready to speak to a professional — which, admittedly, can feel a little nerve-wracking. That said, it’s always nice to have an idea of what to expect so you can feel more prepared for the conversation.

Regardless of what kind of provider you end up speaking with, they’ll likely begin the conversation by asking you about your symptoms of anxiety, which may include: 

  • Feeling restless 

  • Excessive worrying

  • Irritability 

  • Difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions 

  • Fatigue 

  • Sleeping problems 

  • Sweating 

  • Increased heart rate

  • Physical aches and pains, like headaches or stomach aches

It’s crucial to remember that your symptoms might look different from your sibling’s or friend’s, so your provider might recommend treatment that’s also different. The best thing you can do is be honest about your symptoms — there’s no shame when it comes to mental illness.

A few other tips to keep in mind ahead of your appointment: 

  • Write down your questions beforehand. It’s totally understandable if you feel nervous walking into your appointment. But writing down your questions in advance makes it so you have one less thing to worry about.

  • Know what medications you’re taking. Your provider will definitely want to know if you’re taking any other medications (including the dosage) before prescribing you a new one. It’s vital they have this info to ensure various medications don’t negatively interfere with one another.

  • Do a little family history research. Some mental illnesses are hereditary and can be passed down to family members. With this in mind, it’s always helpful to be aware of any conditions your loved ones have (or had) so you can give your provider as much context as possible.

How Doctors Diagnose Anxiety

We’re all guilty of having spent several hours (okay, maybe even days) Googling various ailments and medical symptoms, but it’s usually never as productive as we’d like to admit.

The reality is, there are many types of anxiety disorders. Yes, they’re all different, but many share similar characteristics, which can make figuring things out confusing. This is why avoiding self-diagnosis is a smart idea, and truthfully, it’ll probably save you a lot of time.

The bottom line? It’s always best to seek professional help for health concerns, especially since a mental health professional is the only person who can give you an accurate anxiety diagnosis.

When you see a provider, they’ll likely ask you about your symptoms along with other questions about your lifestyle habits, like smoking, drinking and caffeine consumption. Depending on who you see, they may also have you complete an anxiety test.

Recognizing that you need help and getting it is the most critical step you can take for your mental health. And once you do, you’ll be able to start feeling a little bit lighter.

(Related: 5 Ways to Quiet Your Mind)

Seeing an Anxiety Doctor: Treatments

As noted, anxiety disorders are very treatable. Your healthcare provider might recommend anxiety medication, therapy, lifestyle changes or perhaps all three.

We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how these treatments work in terms of improving your mental health.

Anxiety Medications

There’s a smorgasbord of medication options proven to be effective for treating anxiety. The most commonly prescribed ones are: 

  • Antidepressants. Antidepressants are often prescribed as a first-line treatment for anxiety. They work by targeting the neurotransmitters in your brain responsible for regulating your moods, like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. There are two main categories of antidepressants: SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). SSRIs work by boosting your serotonin levels. Fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), escitalopram (Lexapro) and sertraline (Zoloft) are some of the most popularly used SSRIs. SNRIs function similarly to SSRIs, but they also boost your norepinephrine levels. Two of the most commonly prescribed SNRIs include venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta). If you’re curious about other antidepressants (like TCAs and MAOIs), our full list dives into greater detail.

  • Buspirone. Buspirone, sold under the name BuSpar, is an anxiolytic drug usually prescribed when antidepressants aren’t effective. It was initially developed as an antipsychotic, but nowadays, it’s mainly used to treat chronic anxiety disorders like GAD.

  • Beta blockers. Beta blockers, like propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin), are a heart medication most often used for treating cardiovascular problems like hypertension (aka high blood pressure). However, your provider might recommend them off-label to reduce anxiety symptoms, as beta blockers can slow down your heart rate. They can also be prescribed off-label for treating social anxiety disorder and performance anxiety.

  • Benzodiazepines. Unlike antidepressants which can take several weeks to truly feel the medication’s full effects, benzodiazepines kick in quickly to provide immediate relief. However, there’s a higher risk of dependency associated with benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax), so providers tend to not prescribe them for the long term. 


Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is another effective strategy for treating anxiety disorders. Your healthcare provider might suggest therapy by itself or in conjunction with anti-anxiety medication.

Like medication, there are many different kinds of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. 

CBT is a type of psychological treatment that focuses on changing thinking or behavioral patterns. Patients are taught to be their own therapists by doing exercises outside their therapy sessions that help them identify and course-correct the emotions or behaviors they wish to change.

Exposure therapy works by having patients confront situations they’re scared of while in a safe environment. For example, if driving your car across bridges causes you to have panic attacks, your therapist might suggest taking gradual steps to confront this fear until you’re able to overcome it. 

Lifestyle Changes for Anxiety

Beyond medication and therapy, there’s a handful of lifestyle changes you can implement to help reduce anxiety on your own and improve your all-around wellness. (This doesn’t mean you need to sign up for a marathon tomorrow, we promise.) 

Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Move your body. Yes, exercise has its physical health benefits, but it can also have a major effect on your mental state. Even a 30-minute walk has the power to significantly boost your mood. Grab a friend or your four-legged pal, and take a stroll around the neighborhood. Try a free yoga class on YouTube. Do some stretches in the morning when you wake up. Everything counts.

  • Try journaling. Writing down your thoughts can feel extremely therapeutic. Whether it’s working with journal prompts or just letting yourself word-dump onto the page, experiment with different journaling styles to see what feels right. 

  • Cut back on social media. If you find yourself doomscrolling on Twitter at 1 a.m. when you should be asleep, it might be a sign to curb your social media habits. Not only can it affect your sleep, but there’s also a strong connection between social media and depression. 

  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about finding a state of mind where you’re focused on the present moment. While it’s certainly easier said than done (especially if you have anxious thoughts swirling in your brain), practicing mindfulness can feel grounding and help decrease those negative feelings.

Seeing a Doctor for Anxiety

Dealing with anxiety on your own can feel overwhelming, but the getting-help part doesn’t have to be.

If you feel like anxiety is dominating your life and impacting your overall well-being, remember there are many ways to access support, such as: 

  • Connecting with a healthcare provider. The first step in getting a proper diagnosis and the right treatment starts with an expert. This could be your PCP, a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Each of these mental health professionals has different qualifications, but they can all guide you in the right direction to get the treatment you deserve. Take a look at our guide to getting anxiety medication if you feel like you’re ready.

  • Taking medication. Your healthcare provider might recommend taking medication for your anxiety, like antidepressants, which can be incredibly effective. Based on your symptoms and factors like other medical conditions you might have, they’ll prescribe the best medication for you.

  • Making a therapy appointment. Opening up about your mental health struggles can make you feel 20 pounds lighter. But if you’re not quite comfortable seeing a therapist in-person or you’d like more privacy, anonymous support groups can be a great alternative.

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24 foods to help cure seasonal depression, according to science

24 foods to help cure seasonal depression, according to science

It turns out you really are what you eat. 

Serotonin—”the happiness hormone—” is a chemical in our brain that regulates mood. Over the years, scientists have found that certain foods play a crucial role in increasing this chemical that can make you feel happier.

From oranges to chia seeds, these 24 foods are great for boosting the happiness chemicals in your brain.


Bananas are not only loaded with potassium, but they also contain a powerful amino acid, tryptophan(TRP), which acts like a mood stabilizer and helps in boosting serotonin levels. 

This mighty fruit can also turn a frown upside down because it’s a good source of B vitamin folate.

Feeling beat? Try eating beets. Beets are a great source of betaine,which promotes serotonin production in the brain. Beets also contain folic acid.

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Cracking some shells in the morning is a great way to get your mood on the “sunny side up.” According to many studies, eggs are great mood regulators. 

Eggs are packed with nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, vitamin D, folate, and iodide, which are known to improve the health of brain cells and contribute to feeling more energetic and stable.

According to research by Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, berries contain nutrients that have the chemical similarity to valproic acid — a prescription mood-stabilizing drug. Berries also contain flavonoid anthocyanidin, which reduces inflammation and promotes the production of serotonin.


The protein-packed whole grain has been enjoying its time in the limelight recently. And there is a good reason why. According to a 2010 study in the Journal of Neuropharmacology, quinoa contains a flavonoid known as quercetin, which has been shown to have mood-improving effects. 


Oysters already have a reputation for purportedly being an aphrodisiac. As it turns out, they’re also great for boosting your mood north of the navel. Oysters are loaded with iron, potassium, magnesium, and omega-3s. Oysters are also chock-full of zinc, and according to a study in Nutrition and Metabolic Insights, low levels of zinc have been linked to anxiety.

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This tropical fruit might lift your spirits when you have the winter blues.  Coconut is loaded with medium-chain triglycerides fats known to promote the production of serotonin in the brain. According to a joint study by SUNY Albany and Yale researchers, coconut also has a neuroprotective effect.


Greek yogurt contains higher levels of calcium than milk or regular yogurt. And calcium works miracles in fighting the grumps and grouchesStudies show that low calcium levels are linked to impaired memory, irritability, and slow thinking. Greek yogurt is also loaded with protein, which will keep you full and energized.


It turns out that the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you eat chocolate is scientifically backed up. According to a study by the British Pharmacological Society, cocoa contains flavonols that boost cognitive performance and improves blood flow to your brain. According to a study in the Journal of Proteome Research, dark chocolate is also a great source of antioxidants and reduces the stress hormone cortisol.

But chocoholics should keep in mind that only dark unsweetened chocolate has these benefits, as other cocoa-based sweets are packed with sugars and unhealthy fats, which are often bad news for your health.


An apple a day can keep the blues at bay. According to the British Journal of Health Psychology, eating fruits like apples regularly creates more energy, produces a soothing effect, and boosts overall happiness.

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Now we have the answer to why the millennials are more relaxed than other generations. It’s because of their invention — the almighty avocado toast. A 2020 study found that avocados contain healthy fats that reduce anxiety. But that’s not all — choline, which regulates your nervous system and mood —is found in abundance in the creamy fruit.  Avocados are also rich in vitamin B, which has been linked to reducing stress levels.

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One of the most important nutritional components in pumpkin seeds is tryptophan, an amino acid that stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain. Tryptophan can also help you sleep better at night and wake up refreshed in the morning. 

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Wondering why Popeye is one jolly sailor? It is from all the spinach he eats. According to the Journal of Physiology, spinach is a great source of folic acid, which reduces fatigue. Spinach is also a powerful source of iron, which is essential for feeling energized and vibrant.


According to a study in the journal of Pharmacological Research, omega-3 fatty acids in salmon can reduce inflammation throughout the body, and improve mood.

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Whether mushy, frozen, or fresh, peas can make you happier. A great source of iron, peas can also keep you energized.  


Chicken dinner might be a winner for getting you in a good mood. Chicken is rich in nutrients like zinc, B6, and potassium. A study conducted at the University of Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth Hospital found that eating a high-protein diet, such as chicken, improved self-esteem in women.

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Apricots are mighty weapons for battling a lousy mood. Studies have linked these stone fruits with increased production of serotonin in the brain due to their high vitamin C and beta-carotene levels.


A great source of omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are also loaded with mono- and polyunsaturated fats that promote heart health. A study at the University of New Mexico

found that young men who consumed a half-cup of walnuts each day saw significant improvements in their moods within eight weeks.

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As a nutrition powerhouse, lentils are loaded with B-6, protein, and complex carbohydrates and can help promote the production of serotonin in the brain.


We all know that millennials turned the leafy green veggie into “celebrity food.” But we didn’t know kale is more than just a food trend. A single cup of kale contains a full day’s worth of Vitamin C, B-6, iron, and potassium, all of which are great for increasing serotonin levels.

Magnesium is scientifically proven to boost serotonin, and beans are chock-full of this nutrient. The tiny but mighty legumes are also loaded with happiness boosters like antioxidants, fiber, iron, copper, and zinc.


Feeling blue? Try oranges. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a link between vitamin C and mood. According to the study, citrus consumption reduced the risk of mood-related disorders by up to 18 percent in women who consumed two or more servings a day.

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Whether you use them in a smoothie, oatmeal, or dessert, chia seeds can boost happiness. They are packed with omega-3s which are great for serotonin production and improving brain function. 


The yellow spice is more powerful than you previously thought. According to ethnobotanist Chris Kilham, turmeric contains curcumin, which has been shown to boost mood.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed



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