When Does Anxiety Require Medical Intervention?

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When Does Anxiety Require Medical Intervention?

Everyone’s felt some degree of uneasiness at some point in their lives. From job changes and cross-country moves to strained relationships and loss of loved ones, our mental health rarely escapes unscathed. 

But how do you know when you’ve got a real problem on your hands?

Jeanne Nicholson, ARNP, PMHNP-BC and our team at Nicholson Psychiatry, PLLC know how difficult it can be to manage the complexities of mental health. We’re here with details on how anxiety behaves and some indicators that you need to get help. 

Stress vs. anxiety

First things first, it’s important to define some terms. Those who are unfamiliar with mental health issues can often confuse stress and anxiety. 

Stress has a bad reputation, but it’s not wholly deserved. In many ways, stress is healthy. Your body responds to perceived threats by engaging its fight-or-flight response, which raises your blood pressure, releases cortisol and adrenaline, and helps you react to your surroundings. 

Usually, stress is temporary and resolves once you’ve neutralized the threat. 

Chronic stress has serious health implications, including increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. 

Furthermore, chronic stress can mimic some of the signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder. There are a few different types of anxiety disorders with various symptoms that are different from run-of-the-mill stress, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder 
  • Panic disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Specific phobia
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

So, how can you tell the difference between stress, chronic stress, and a full-blown mental health problem? If you’ve been experiencing excessive, persistent anxiety or worry, you likely need to seek medical attention. 

A good rule of thumb to consider is whether or not your mental health status is affecting your ability and desire to do the things you need and like to do. If yes, it’s time to get help. If you’re not sure whether you’ve crossed over into a serious issue, consider the following examples. 

You’re canceling plans

If you feel so overwhelmed by your schedule that you start backing out of obligations or even social engagements, travel plans, and other fun activities, your anxiety may have reached a level where you can’t deal with it on your own anymore. 

Your emotions are out of control

There are times when strong emotion is warranted. But if you’re having severe floods of emotions and intrusive thoughts in response to even minor issues, you have an anxiety problem that likely needs treatment.  

You have no energy

All that worry and relentless stress takes a toll on your physical health. Talk to us if you feel tired for seemingly no reason or you can’t focus and function the way you once did. 

You’re having panic attacks

A hallmark of an anxiety disorder is panic attacks. When panic attacks happen, they strike out of the blue and cause you to feel a sense of impending danger or doom. 

You have an immediate physical response. Your heart starts beating rapidly, your breathing becomes labored, and you feel nauseous, fearful, and uneasy. 

The symptoms can be so intense that some think they’re having a heart attack and end up in the ER.

You feel alone

Anxiety has a way of making you feel isolated that stress doesn’t, and the more you separate and detach yourself from everyday life, the worse your mental health becomes. This is especially a problem for those with social anxiety and agoraphobia. 

You’ve stopped being yourself

Anxiety (especially if it’s gone unchecked) can completely alter your personality and moods. If you find you’re not speaking your mind, engaging with life, and otherwise not feeling like yourself, anxiety may have taken hold. 

There’s hope in treatment

Whether you identify with one or more of the above symptoms, the good news is that what you have is completely treatable — and the sooner you get started with treatment, the better. 

At Nicholson Psychiatry, there’s no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed. We listen to your struggles and concerns with compassion and help you create an action plan to manage your mental health. 

Depending on your specific needs, we may recommend a medication management program, therapy, stress management, and lifestyle changes to calm your anxiety. 

If you feel your mental health has reached a point where you can no longer manage it alone, don’t hesitate to request an appointment with our team at our Bellevue, Washington office.