Well, May was Mental Health Month. And I wrote some more about Mental Health during May but was overtaken by events. Still, it’s a good blog so I’m going to publish it anyway even though it’s June.
In my May blog, I said that depression and anxiety were the two most commonly acknowledged mental health issues, and then I went on and talked about depression. Today we are going to discuss anxiety.
It is of interest that anxiety most commonly follows along with feelings of depression. Like depression, it can be shrugged off as just a symptom of the times we are living in, so we think it is not really a mental health condition. If so, we think wrong. Because anxiety can be overwhelming, even crippling. And whether you’re anxious because you are depressed or depressed because you’re anxious, you still need help. Sometimes anxiety is a symptom of a depression diagnosis, but other times it is a separate diagnosis on its own.
Anxiety manifests itself in different ways. Sometimes it’s a full-blown, heart pounding, hyperventilating panic attack; other times it is as simple as feeling a disinclination to address a particular subject or person. Either of these can impair your ability to deal with the activities of your daily life. You can probably understand why the panic attack impairs you, but it is hard to see how that little disinclination also gets in the way of getting on with your life. Imagine that you are concerned about whether your job will still be there once the economy restarts after Covid but you are disinclined to call your supervisor and find out what the situation looks like today. So, you don’t make the call, and then sit there and worry.
Like depression, feelings of anxiety can often be disregarded or brushed off as no big deal. You will forgive me if I liken this to sitting on a ticking time bomb: the more you ignore the symptoms, the more likely you are to perseverate about whatever you’re anxious about (that means thinking about it to the exclusion of thinking about anything else). Perseveration makes the problem bigger, more unmanageable. Eventually, you find yourself unable to make a decision about anything because the anxiety has grown to unmanageable proportions.
Unlike the PHQ 9 for depression, there is not a form I can give you to score the level of your anxiety. You have to decide when what you feel is intense enough to inspire you to seek help.
What might help look like? The knee jerk reaction in the 21st Century is to ask your doctor for some Xanax. Maybe he or she will do so but that only treats the symptoms and not the underlying root of the problem. Anxiety has very deep roots, sometimes going back to your childhood, and it is only by unearthing these roots that the anxiety can be appropriately treated. Perhaps it is the fear of unearthing the roots that makes you more likely to ask for a pill than to engage in talk therapy. It is interesting that people are more likely to accept a medication in treatment of anxiety than they are to accept it for treating depression. There seems to be more stigma attached to antidepressant medication than there is to antianxiety medication. I mean, everybody wants Xanax, right?
So, are you anxious? Do you have corresponding depression? Are you anxious because you’re depressed or depressed because you’re anxious? Can you even figure it out on your own? And is it impairing your daily activities and relationships? If so, we can help. We can treat it if it’s part of depression or on its own. And we won’t just give you a pill and refer you to a therapist. Dr. Tess uses a combination of medication (if needed) and cognitive behavioral therapy, a program that’s built to fit your personal needs. Just call (816) 427-5320 or you can set up an appointment online at www.gfmdirectprimarycare.com. We are here to help you.