Starting the Process: Getting help for anxiety and depression

Hi Wendi,

I spend the majority of my days feeling sad, with zero energy and generally feeling pretty blue. In addition, anytime anything ‘big’ comes up in my life (e.g. When my partner and I just bought a house, when I apply for jobs, social engagements etc.), my chronic reflux plays up badly, basically giving me nasty churning stomach sensations.

Both my parents, my brother and most of my aunts and uncles suffer from anxiety and/or depression, and based on the above – I’m pretty sure I do too. In particular, recently, I have been finding myself super grumpy, rude and super depressed – after missing out on two jobs that I applied for and didn’t get.

I have made the decision to finally do something about it, and am planning on seeing a doctor soon to discuss this and what might be done to help me, but I’m worried (yay anxiety) about what to say, how to prepare and anything else I should be ready for.

As an aside, I have also been reading a fair bit on an Australian site (I’m Australian!) that tackles depression and anxiety – www.beyondblue.org.au. It is pretty good, and in particular identified me as heavily depressed and anxious based on some basic quizzes on the site.  However, I am after another opinion, especially given how much I respect yours, and some thoughts on next steps.

Thank you very much in advance,
Chris

Dear Chris –

Yes, it’s likely you have both anxiety and depression.  Often times, struggling with anxiety for too long will burn out your endocrine system and can lead to depression.  I’m not sure of your age and the onset of your symptoms, which play a role in how to treat both, but it sounds like stress and “real life” stuff has made a susceptibility (i.e. family history) into a reality.  The website you shared is a great one and could be useful to anyone.  Thanks for sharing.

So first, yes, go talk to your doctor about your symptoms and see about finding a therapist who specializes in anxiety and depression.  More specifically, to answer your question about preparing yourself for an appointment with a doctor, I would suggest two things.  First, don’t do your doctors job for him or her.  Express your concerns and describe your symptoms and answer their questions, but don’t offer them your diagnostic opinion quite yet.  The reason is that most doctors will just go with what you think it is, because it saves everybody time.  More importantly, you want to get a sense of how they will approach helping you.  In most cases, be ready for the “here’s a sample of a drug you can get started on and I’ll write you a prescription.  Come back in 30-60 days and we’ll see how it’s going.”  Be prepared to hear it but do not take that as the medical advice you’ll accept.  It sounds nice – take a pill and all this goes away, but it’s treating your symptoms not solving the underlying issue.   I assume you’ll be talking to your General Practitioner/Family Doctor first.  They will not likely be experts in mental health, so ask a few questions about their protocol.  Do they examine you?  Do they order any blood tests?  (the following would be good ones: testosterone levels, thyroid functioning, and cortisol levels.)  Do they really listen?

Maybe I want too much out of my doctors, but this is important.  If you like your doctor and want to work with her or him on this stuff, then try asking them for those tests if they aren’t suggested. You suggest them.  It can’t hurt.  I’ve had many clients come back with answers from these tests, like an undetected metabolic disease, endocrine system failure and low testosterone that could explain many of their symptoms.  It’s best to rule out all of that before just taking a pill.   (Mind you anti-depressants are known to only reduce symptoms of depression in just 20 out of 100 people.   So it is well worth your time getting properly diagnosed.)

In addition to addressing the medical side of things, best practices for treating anxiety and depression is a combination of medication and talk therapy – often including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness meditation, relaxation training and working through unresolved emotional trauma and so on.  Please go find yourself a good therapist too.

Asking for support and help from friends/family can also be an important aspect of healing and recovering.

Best regards,

Wendi

 

 

 

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