Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/19/2021
You can seek professional help for anxiety by talking to your primary healthcare provider or scheduling an appointment with someone that specializes in mental health. We’ve provided more information about each option below.
One of the best ways to seek treatment for anxiety is to talk to your primary healthcare provider, also known popularly as your primary care provider (PCP, or primary care physician).
Your primary care provider may ask you questions about your symptoms and perform a physical examination.
They may check for other health issues that could cause you to experience anxiety symptoms. These may include:
A physical health condition, such as heart arrhythmia or thyroid problem
Excessive use of caffeine or a substance use disorder
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Side effects from certain types of medication
If your primary care provider thinks that you might have an anxiety disorder, they will develop a treatment plan that may include medications and a referral to a mental health professional.
Psychologists specialize in helping people with mental health issues, such as anxiety disorders or depression.
Your primary care provider may refer you to a psychologist for an expert diagnosis if they think you might have an anxiety disorder.
You can also schedule an appointment with a psychologist directly by contacting their office.
To diagnose anxiety, a psychologist will ask you questions about your symptoms. They may ask you to complete an anxiety test.
This type of test is used to get more information about the type and severity of your symptoms, as well as the effect that your anxiety has on your life.
In most states, psychologists cannot prescribe medication for anxiety. However, a psychologist may provide psychotherapy and work with your primary care provider to ensure you can access medication to treat your symptoms.
If your primary care provider suspects that you have an anxiety disorder, they may refer you to a psychiatrist.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors that focus on diagnosing and treating mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders.
As a type of medical doctor, a psychiatrist can prescribe anxiety medication in addition to providing therapy.
If you’d prefer not to talk to your primary care provider for a psychiatry referral, or if you’d like to seek care from the privacy and convenience of your own home, you can connect with a licensed psychiatry provider online using our telepsychiatry service.
Telepsychiatry allows you to virtually visit an online psychiatrist or other qualified providers for an evaluation.
If appropriate, you’ll receive a personalized treatment plan that may include medication for your anxiety symptoms.
You’ll get the best results from your appointment with your primary care provider, psychologist or psychiatrist if you’re prepared.
Before your visit, try to prepare the following information for your healthcare provider:
A list of your anxiety symptoms, when they started and the impact they have on your life, wellbeing and ability to function.
Specific objects, environments and/or situations that cause you to feel anxious, worried or irritable.
Any other medical conditions with which you’ve been diagnosed, including physical and mental conditions.
A list of prescription medications, over-the-counter medications or supplements that you currently use or have recently used.
The more information you can provide about your anxiety symptoms, lifestyle and overall health, the better equipped your healthcare provider will be to provide an accurate diagnosis.
Anxiety is treatable. Depending on your symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend using medication, therapy, lifestyle changes or a combination of different techniques to control your anxiety and improve your quality of life.
Most anxiety disorders can be treated with either medication or medication or in combination with therapy and lifestyle changes.
Several types of medication are used to treat anxiety. Based on your anxiety symptoms, needs and personal health, your healthcare provider may prescribe the following types of medication:
Antidepressants. These medications work by changing the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain, including neurotransmitters that control your moods and feelings. They’re often effective but usually take several weeks to start working. Most antidepressants prescribed to treat anxiety belong to a class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Benzodiazepines. These medications reduce anxiety by sensitizing receptors in your brain to the effects of inhibitory neurotransmitters. They provide immediate relief from anxiety but can cause dependence and aren’t recommended for long-term use. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a benzodiazepine such as alprazolam (Xanax®), clonazepam (Klonopin®), diazepam (Valium®) or lorazepam (Ativan®) to help you treat and manage anxiety in the short term.
Beta-blockers. These medications are generally used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). Your healthcare provider may prescribe them off-label to treat some physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a rapid heartbeat or trembling. Beta-blockers, such as propranolol, are often used to treat performance anxiety — a form of anxiety that can occur during speeches, auditions or other public performances.
Buspirone. This is a medication prescribed to treat chronic anxiety. It’s less likely to cause side effects than other anti-anxiety medications, but it may not be effective for everyone.
Our guide to anxiety medications provides more information about how these medications work, their benefits, potential side effects and more.
If you’re prescribed medication for anxiety, make sure to closely follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider. Let your healthcare provider know as soon as possible if you have any side effects from your medication.
Some medications used to treat anxiety may cause withdrawal effects if stopped abruptly. You should always talk with your healthcare provider before adjusting your dosage or stopping your use of any anxiety medication.
Most anxiety disorders can be treated through psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you take part in therapy, either on its own or in combination with anti-anxiety medication.
Several forms of therapy are used to treat anxiety, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy involves identifying the faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking that are causing or contributing to your anxiety, then using proven strategies to change the way that you think and behave.
Exposure therapy involves confronting the objects or situations that cause you to feel anxious in a safe, controlled environment.
You can learn more about these methods and other therapeutic techniques used to treat anxiety in our guide to therapy for anxiety.
Your healthcare provider may recommend making certain changes to your habits and lifestyle to reduce the severity of your anxiety. These may include:
Identifying and avoiding the situations or objects that trigger your anxiety
Using stress management techniques to control your moods, feelings and thoughts
Using practices such as meditation to reduce stress and increase your self-awareness
Exercising, eating a balanced diet and taking other steps to improve your physical health
We’ve discussed these habits and how they can fit to anxiety treatment more in our full guide to calming down anxiety.
Anxiety can take a major toll on your quality of life, especially when it affects your ability to work, learn or maintain relationships.
If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, you can seek help by talking to your primary care provider or scheduling an appointment with a licensed mental health provider. Self-diagnosing yourself with anxiety is not recommended
Worried about anxiety? Our free mental health resources are available to help you learn proven strategies for dealing with anxiety, depression and other common mental health conditions.