Yes, you read correctly, I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was diagnosed at around age 12 but I have had anxious tendencies since I was a small child. As you can also see, I deal with several physical medical problems affecting my digestive and neurological systems. Unfortunately, I have encountered medical providers who have written off my presenting problems and health concerns as merely “anxiety-related.” To me, this seems such a detrimental action to the promotion of personal health and wellness. Doctor’s offices and emergency rooms are already anxiety-provoking atmospheres, even for people without an anxiety diagnosis. By dismissing a person’s concerns as based “all in their head” you contribute to the possibility that they may ignore important warning signs or even stop receiving medical care altogether.
When you make conclusions without adequate investigation – which I realize does take valuable time and money – things can be missed. Things have been missed with me – even a condition that without surgery would have resulted in dangerous complications. In that particular instance, I was so upset that the problem was missed. But I was most distressed that my family doctor was the one who missed it, the medical professional who should have known me the best. A person’s symptoms deserve to be worked-up even if they have a chemical imbalance in their brain, especially if they have other medical diagnoses. People seek out medical professionals for their expertise and help. So you can imagine how discouraging it is to be treated differently because of something entirely out of your control.
The next time you have a patient who presents with some physical health concern and also happens to have an anxiety diagnosis, please try to look past the easy inferences, try to see beyond what may appear on the surface, to find out what is really going on for them. I know you may be tight on time and resources, but how you interact with your patients has the potential to make a huge difference in their lives. While anxiety can cause physical symptoms, it is important to take any patient’s concerns seriously. I know my body. I know when something is not right. And I put my trust in you to help me figure out what that is. Please don’t take that trust lightly.