by National Institute of Mental Health

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

If you, or someone you know, has symptoms of anxiety, a visit to the family physician is usually the best place to start. A physician can help you determine if the symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, some other medical condition, or both. Most often, the next step to getting treatment for an anxiety disorder is referral to a mental health professional.

Among the professionals who can help are psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors. However, it's best to look for a professional who has specialized training in cognitive-behavioral or behavioral therapy and who is open to the use of medications, should they be needed.

Psychologists, social workers, and counselors sometimes work closely with a psychiatrist or other physician, who will prescribe medications when they are required. For some people, group therapy or self-help groups are a helpful part of treatment. Many people do best with a combination of these therapies.

When you're looking for a health care professional, it's important to inquire about what kinds of therapy he or she generally uses or whether medications are available. It's important that you feel comfortable with the therapy. If this is not the case, seek help elsewhere. However, if you've been taking medication, it's important not to quit certain drugs abruptly, but to taper them off under the supervision of your physician. Be sure to ask your physician about how to stop a medication.

Remember, though, that when you find a health care professional you're satisfied with, the two of you are working as a team. Together you will be able to develop a plan to treat your anxiety disorder that may involve medications, behavioral therapy, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, as appropriate. Treatments for anxiety disorders, however, may not start working instantly. Your doctor or therapist may ask you to follow a specific treatment plan for several weeks to determine whether it's working.

NIMH continues its search for new and better treatments for people with anxiety disorders. The Institute supports a sizeable and multifaceted research program on anxiety disorders--their causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. This research involves studies of anxiety disorders in human subjects and investigations of the biological basis for anxiety and related phenomena in animals. It is part of a massive effort to overcome the major mental disorders, an effort that is taking place during the 1990s, which Congress has designated the Decade of the Brain.

Anxiety Disorders (Introduction)

For More Information

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) conducts and supports research nationwide on mental illness and mental health, including studies of the brain, behavior, and mental health services. NIMH is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the principal biomedical and behavioral research agency of the United States Government. NIMH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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