Ask The Psychiatrist: Anxiety Disorders

*The copy below was originally published in the April 20th edition of the La Jolla Light*

Anxiety is the body’s normal reaction to stress, and it has a very important purpose. It is designed to signal dangerous, uncomfortable, or unfamiliar situations so that we remain aware and alert. However, for the 40 million adults affected by anxiety disorders (which includes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder), the warning signal often sounds loudly and consistently, with no ‘off switch’ in sight. Below, Dr. Krista Roybal, Executive Medical Director at La Jolla’s True Life Center for Wellbeing, answers some a few common questions about this prevalent mental health issue.

Q.) I worry a lot…about my job, my kids, my weight, the growing piles of laundry on top of the washer…. do I have anxiety?

A.) We all experience stress and anxiety from time to time, and in certain     situations, like moving to a new city, taking a test, or attending a job interview, that anxiety is not only normal but beneficial. Generally, the difference between healthy anxiety and an Anxiety Disorder is the amount of time you spend in that anxious state, and the severity of the feeling. If your anxiety is preventing you from living a full and satisfying life in any way, I would encourage you to seek help. The laundry can wait.

Q.) A friend suggested that my unexplained stomach problems and migraines might be anxiety-related, but I don’t feel particularly anxious. Is it possible for anxiety to be physical?

A.) Not only is it possible, it’s very common! I often see patients who have been suffering from the physical symptoms of anxiety – which include insomnia, upset stomach or nausea, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, muscle tension and more – long before they receive an anxiety diagnosis. Often, individuals will visit their primary care doctor for help in addressing the symptoms, while the root cause remains unaddressed. That’s why anxiety treatment at True Life Center includes holistic services like acupuncture, yoga, and meditation. Mental health affects more than just the mind, and true healing requires attending to someone’s whole health – mind, body, and spirit.

Q.) What should I do if I suspect that I have an anxiety problem, but I’m too anxious to talk to a professional about it?

A.) You aren’t alone in being hesitant to seek help. Unfortunately, only one-third of those suffering from Anxiety Disorders receive treatment. Others delay treatment for years while numbing themselves with alcohol or prescription medication, spending excessive time on social media, or distracting themselves with work or with food. Many times I see patients who put off getting help because they fear that consciously facing the source of their anxiety will make things worse. And it might get a little worse before it gets better. But sharing and processing, thoughtful medication when necessary, and learning the tools and resources for self-care can provide immense relief. I encourage you to ask a trusted friend or loved one to support you in getting the help you need. This can mean assisting with research, helping you make phone calls, or holding you accountable for attending that first appointment.

If you have questions about anxiety disorders or want to learn more about treatment for anxiety or other mental health issues, please call True Life Center at 858-384-4535. We would be happy to provide information, resources, and support.