How do I know if my anxiety is ” bad enough” to need treatment?

My short answer to this question is: If you’re asking this question, its probably time to think about treatment. Is your anxiety disrupting your ability to fully engage in your usual activities, sleep, be present in your relationships, or enjoy life? Then it needs to be addressed. Our culture tends to glorify being stressed as a sign that you’re busy achieving things, but the reality is that there is no glory in suffering through anxiety.

To meet clinical criteria for generalized anxiety disorder, excessive/ disruptive worry needs to have been present more days than not for at least 6 months. In my experience, people often struggle with their symptoms much longer than that before finding their way to treatment. Symptoms include difficulty concentrating, edginess, fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. Of course, humans are all different and one person’s experience may not match someone else’s- that’s ok.

Consider these questions when determining whether you’re at a point of wanting to seek treatment:
– Are these symptoms decreasing my quality of life?
-Are my relationships suffering? ( This includes your relationship with yourself!)
-Do I feel out of control of my symptoms?
If any of these are a ” yes”, I’d recommend taking action.

What does treatment for anxiety look like? Many people will start with their PCP ( primary care physician), which is a great idea. They may suggest medications, so consider if this is something you’re willing to try before you have an appointment. Another place to start is with a therapist or, if you’re in a school setting, possibly a school counselor or school social worker. you can get therapy recommendations from your doctor, your insurance company, Psychology Today listings in your area, or from people you know who’ve had therapy in the past.

If you’re not ready to consider finding a therapist or meeting with your doctor, consider lifestyle changes that could help alleviate your symptoms like getting more sleep, reducing caffeine intake, adding exercise into your daily routine, and finding relaxation strategies that work for you.

Published by Mary Feamster, LPC

Charlottesville-based therapist passionate about helping people improve their mental health, move well, and be well.

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