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Anxiety: A Local Psychologist's Advice on When It’s Time to Talk to Someone

Anxiety: A Local Psychologist's Advice on When It’s Time to Talk to Someone

Feeling anxious on occasion is normal. You might get anxious before taking a test, going to the doctor or boarding an airplane.

But when your anxiety starts interfering with your ability to function in your daily life, you might have an anxiety disorder.

“If you’re restricting your activities, then it’s time to get some help,” says psychologist John Lewis, who is affiliated with Winchester Rehab Center and Winchester Medical Center. “People with high anxiety will sometimes become avoidant of what’s making them anxious. The problem with that is your world becomes a lot smaller.”

Types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A mental health condition that causes excessive worry or a constant feeling of being overwhelmed about everyday things
  • Phobias: Persistent, excessive, overwhelming fear when encountering certain situations or things
  • Panic disorder: A sudden, intense episode of anxiety that involves feelings of impending doom, along with a physiological reaction that can include a racing heart and shortness of breath. These individuals might confuse their panic disorder with a health issue, such as a heart attack or stroke.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Acute stress disorder: A psychological response to a sudden stress-inducing event, like a car accident or death in the family

Anxiety tends to be heritable, which means it runs in families. It’s also associated with substance abuse disorders.

Lewis says most people with an anxiety disorder are aware they have anxiety, with the possible exception of those experiencing a panic attack. These individuals might believe they are having a stroke or heart attack due to a host of symptoms, including rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, coldness, weakness in the extremities and more.

“A lot of people with a panic disorder show up in the Emergency Department because they think they have a medical issue going on or they think they’re going crazy,” he says.

When to See a Doctor

It’s time to see a doctor when:

  • Your anxiety is interfering with your work, relationships or other parts of your life
  • You constantly worry, and this feeling is hard to control
  • You’re abusing alcohol or drugs to deal with your anxiety
  • You are experiencing a health issue with your anxiety
  • You are experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts

Lewis advises those who believe they have anxiety to talk to their primary care physician (PCP) first. A PCP will discuss a treatment plan that could include medications or behavioral health therapy.

“Talk to somebody,” he says. “Hiding it is never good. If your anxiety is troubling you, your physician should know about it. Discussing your symptoms and being open is an excellent first step.”

To find a Valley Health primary care physician, please visit Providers | Valley Health (