I think the best way is to see your general practitioner and ask them for a referral to someone they know and trust. I know some people are nervous about admitting they have a problem with depression or anxiety—even to a doctor—but I promise that the build up to asking them is worse than the actual asking. Afterwards you will most likely say, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad.”
If you absolutely cannot get the words out of your mouth, you may want to bring an advocate. A friend or family member you trust who can help you do the talking and broach the subject. Another option is to write a letter. Put down your thoughts and questions on a piece of paper and ask the doctor to read it. I have done this before and it really worked well.
Dealing with anxiety and/or depression should usually be attacked on two fronts. Talk therapy to develop coping mechanisms… and if necessary, medication may also be needed.
The big hurdle is finding a therapist that is a good fit for you and a psychiatrist that won’t just throw pills at you on a whim.
A lot of people think psychiatrists give the talk therapy, but that isn’t always the case. A psychiatrist’s main job is to diagnose you and manage your medication. Oftentimes you will go to a separate person to handle the talk therapy.
The most important advice I can give would be to never-ever feel like you are “stuck” with a doctor or therapist. It is very important to have a good working chemistry to get the best care. If you aren’t feeling it, and you don’t trust them, you should look for another doctor/therapist.
Believe it or not, you can even ask them for a referral to someone else, and unless they are awful (which does happen), they will be happy to send you to a colleague who may be a better fit. It’s hard telling them, “I don’t feel like you are the right fit for my treatment, I need to see someone else.” But if they are professional, they will understand.
The next most important advice is that psych medication is a very inexact science. If someone says, “OMG THAT PILL IS THE WORST DON’T EVER TAKE THAT!” —they don’t understand what they are talking about. Psych meds can have drastically different effects on everyone. So a pill that is horrible for your friend might work great for you. That’s why you should not go on pills based on a friend’s recommendation. Let the doctor do the recommending.
And lastly, the huge downside to psych meds—it is trial and error.
You may have to try several meds until you find the best one for you. And in that process you may have to incur some pretty nasty side effects. Many people find this so discouraging that they give up on medication right away.
The first thing to know is that oftentimes the side effects are only temporary. So unless they are absolutely intolerable, give the medication a bit of time to do its thing.
The second thing to know is that there are many variants of medications to treat the same psychiatric disorders. There are several dozen for depression alone. That means there is a very very good chance that something could really benefit you and improve your quality of life. It just may take a while to figure out what medication that is. Just don’t be afraid to tell your doctor, “this isn’t working, I would like to try something else.”
Also keep in mind that medication can be a bit of a compromise. You may have to weigh the positives and negatives of how it affects you. It may do some things you don’t care for, but is that worse than the good things it does for you? If the scale is tipped in the negative, move on to something else.
Also, I wrote a post giving some advice for depression a while back that is relevant to all of this. I might suggest folks check that out as well.
You don’t have to live with your anxiety on full blast all the time. Help is available and I promise that if you put the work in, you can improve things substantially. There is no cure. Anxiety and depression usually dig their claws into your brain and always have a presence. But with time, patience, and work… you can hit the mute button on their effects.
I wanted to blog this during the day. A few people have already said it was very helpful, so I thought I would make sure the daytime folks had a chance to look it over. There are also some folks in the comments that had some very good additional remarks.