Anxiety isn’t “just in your head.” Like taking your temperature, we all need to check in to make sure we’re feeling mentally well, not just physically well. Especially in the middle of a global pandemic, your mental health may be taking a hit.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses, affecting 40 million people over age 18 in the US. Less than half of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment. We’re here to break down how to differentiate between them, how to seek treatment, and resources for working through anxiety in your day-to-day.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
They aren’t one-size-fits all. Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, affects more than 6 million US adults. It’s characterized by symptoms that may include excessive worry, worst-case scenario fixations, indecisiveness, trouble focusing, and trouble sleeping.
OK I’ve experienced those, do I have an anxiety disorder?
Maybe. But worry and anxiety are often confused. Worry is pretty much an unavoidable part of being alive, while GAD should be treated. Worry is only one symptom of anxiety. A few more differences: worry is usually experienced in the head while anxiety is felt in the body. Worry is specific (e.g. nervous about catching the train) while anxiety is general (e.g. anxious about traveling). Worry often leads to problem solving while anxiety does not. Worry is temporary, anxiety is persistent. Worry doesn’t have a long-term effect on your life or wellbeing, while anxiety very much does.
GAD is only one of many anxiety disorders that should be identified and treated. Here are some others, their symptoms, and then ways to seek treatment.
While it’s helpful to know about different types of anxiety, you should not self-diagnose. WebMD rabbit holes are not your friend. Get treatment from a doctor who’s trained to help.
Which type of therapy is best for me?
You may gravitate towards a certain type of therapy based on your symptoms, or simply your preferences. Here are some of the most common types of treatments:
These therapies are all effective for treating anxiety and depression. Psychodynamic therapy can be more effective for long-term problems rooted in past behavior, like relationship issues, while CBT can be most effective for treating conditions like insomnia. Group therapy is useful for those looking for a lot of feedback and a community—it’s also usually cheaper.
Does insurance cover this?
Fingers crossed. If you’re looking for a mental health professional and have insurance, start on your provider’s site. The law requires most insurance plans—including employer-sponsored plans and coverage purchased under the Affordable Care Act—to treat mental health like physical health coverage. That means an insurance company can’t charge a $50 copay to visit a psychologist if it only charges a $20 copay to visit a surgeon.
But my therapist won’t accept my insurance, even though I have mental health coverage. Why not?
First off, you’re not alone. Many mental health professionals choose not to accept insurance. Therapists can charge more independently—especially since many insurance companies haven’t increased the reimbursement rate for mental health professionals in years, despite the rising costs of running a practice. Check to see if your plan accepts out-of-network providers. If it does, you’ll have to complete an insurance claim form and submit it along with the invoice for your treatment to get reimbursed.
Can I pay for this with my HSA or FSA account?
It depends. Reminder: health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible savings accounts (FSAs) are savings accounts specifically for your health insurance plans. You can contribute pre-tax dollars to them and save and pay for things like pricey deductibles, co-pays, prescriptions...and mental health coverage. Psychologist or psychiatrist treatment are eligible as FSA or HSA expenses, though certain therapies—like marriage counseling—are not, unless it’s for an explicit medical purpose. Prescriptions for mental health and treatments for issues like substance abuse are eligible. In order to receive the green light, you may have to first meet with your Primary Care Physician and get a Letter of Medical Necessity.
If you can’t afford to see a professional or want strategies for coping in-between sessions, there are tips and free resources out there to get started. Here are some of our favorites:
Apps and Websites:
Mental health stigmas are real, but so are treatments. Anxiety does not mean weakness. Anxiety does not mean indulgence. Anxiety means you’re human—and learning to manage the condition and live your life.
Skimm'd by Becky Murray and Avery Carpenter Forrey
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