Why do doctors not seem to understand anxiety?

This is something I asked myself in my early days. My own doctor was going to tell me what was wrong and make me better. Well I reeled of my symptoms and he just stared at me. Well how did that make me feel? I really thought I must be the only person in the world to feel like this as the very person who should know, has no idea. Well he gave me some anti depressants and some other tablets, both useless. In fact all I wanted was an explanation as to what was wrong with me. The word anxiety was not even mentioned. It took many more visits before he referred me somewhere else. By this time I was in a real state, I worried daily, I fought my symptoms, I got so frustrated, I was getting worse not better.

Eventually I was sent to someone who told me what the problem was. But if only someone could have told me far sooner I could have maybe researched the problem, certainly saved me of months of thinking I was going crazy.

Looking back I believe the medical world failed me, failed me on something that is far more common than any other complaint people see their doctor for. This was confirmed by my own doctor. He stated it was by far the biggest complaint people come to him with. But I also now understand that anxiety is a subject in itself and doctors are just not trained or equipped enough to deal with it. But I do believe that there should be someone that he could send you to that does, or at least a leaflet explaining certain things. One reason that I feel it is largely ignored is that we all have to feel that we must keep it to ourselves, we suffer mainly in silence. People can be sympathetic to you having flu, but anxiety, that does not exist, its a work dodgers illness. Hopefully in the future we can bring far more awareness to the problem, so people do not have to suffer in silence and can get the help they need far quicker.

Just to finish I received an email last month asking for my help, he was under so much pressure at work, he told me his symptoms and asked if I thought this was anxiety. Who was he?…..Yes a practicing Doctor!

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13 Responses to “Why do doctors not seem to understand anxiety?”

  1. Debbie Says:

    I went to my doctor on 22 April 2007 after 3 days of horrible anxiety, i was terrified! I had no idea what was happening to me and thought i was going mad. I have yet to hear my Dr tell me its Anxiety, Stress or a Breakdown!! I have figured this out for myself!! All my Dr tells me is that its Depression and “hows the antidepressants working?”
    I had had such a build up of stress over a few years (grandparents died in a fire, planned my wedding, moved house, changed job, had 2 miscarriages AND had come back from helping a close friend give evidence in court as he was sexully assaulted, hes 12) it was 3 days after i returned from the court that i crumpled into my breakdown!! I don’t think it would take a rocket scientist to figure it out!!!!!
    And still its not been recognised!!
    But even if it had, there is no support for anxiety/stress. It is put under the same umbrella as depression which i don’t believe is right! My depression stemmed BECAUSE of my breakdown! I am lucky enough to have the support of a wonderful family and councilor.
    I am also lucky that i found your website. I have a piece to go but believe i’m in recovery now. When i’m stronger i want to raise awareness of anxiety!!

  2. paul c Says:

    i don’t know if this is a uk site or not but i think you’ll find the reason GP’s are so crap at diagnosing anxiety problems is because they recieve so very little training in mental health! they usually have six months within mental health services as part of their rotation and thats it!! some are keen others just want to get it over and done with. further more as soon a someone is ‘tagged’ with the mental ‘illness’ label primary care will usually immeadiatly re refer to secondry services rather than try to manage the patients problems within thier service – these referrals are often returned to primary care as they do not meet the criteria for involvement of secondry specialist service meaning the patient suffers for longer!!

  3. Candie Says:

    ok, as im on a roll tonight i will add my bit about Doctors!

    Well looking back this anxiety has been building up for a while, in the past 3 years i have dealt with some pretty bad stuff; but im not going to go into it as it is irrelevant and i have my fiances ear to bend about that! Eventually i started feeling down, emotionless and having weird thoughts. Then one weekend i suddenly felt as if i couldnt cope, then out of the blue i had a panic attack. Although at the time i was convinced i had a brain tumour (due to tension head aches) and that i was dying!

    So i rang my dad, he raced round to my fiances and whisked me of to the emergency doctors. I remember going in an saying my heart is pounding out of my chest, im anxious and feel like im going to pass out. He checked my heart rate and decided i had an infection. So in my state of panic i said what kind, in which he replied sternly, JUST AN INFECTION. I said, well you must know what kind so he shouted at me saying i had a chest infection. He Prescribed me some antibiotics so i asked what chemist is open on bank holidays, so he shouted at me again and said go ask the receptionist.

    So to cut a long story short i had about 8 panic attacks throughout the night after visiting the docs, and ended up at A&E. I was hooked upto a monitor, assessed and still no one new or told me it was a panic attack. I was left to good old Google and some self diagnosis.

    It is really sad that Doctors are so ignorant when it comes to anxiety, my experience left me feeling so alone . Even before reading Pauls book i was more clued up on anxiety through google then what my doctor could tell me. I think the medical proffesion like to differentiate the illness and concentrate on each symptom, when the fact is every form of anxiety comes down to the same principles. Tired nerves, adrenalin, fear etc.

    None of this was once explained to me, if it was i would of dealt with the anxiety much better. My doctor had a shock when he saw me today, i strolled in all confident and full of smiles, told him exactly what is wrong with me and that i know i am going to recover. He didnt even recognise me compared to the scruffy, tearful, sleep deprived wreck he saw 4 weeks previously! It angers me that our mental health is in the hands of doctors with so little knowledge.

  4. Shirley Says:

    I’ve just finished a course of antibiotics folowing a virus followed by chest infection. Just when I thought I could go back to work, anxiety has set in…….so now I’ve established I haven’t got a temperature or high blood pressure etc, I now know what I’ve got….and am going back to old methods of treating is: breathing exercises, camomile tea, positive thinkg….and also taking some supplements to help the immune system. I hate feeling like this, but a small voice in my head tells me it will pass…but it’s horrible going through it…

  5. brendan V Says:

    Hey I know the feeling . I was at home one evening with my friend. Doing work on laptop, then I just felt a strange rush and my heart started going fast my arm felt a bit fuzzy and my mouth was dry, i felt dizzy and was feeling that I was going to pass out! My friend managed to clam me down so i had a shower and got dressed and I started to fell it again and the feeling of about to pass out, so we walked to A&E and the wait to see a nurse was 2hrs by this time my body had returned to normal. The nurse asked me few questions etc then I was seen by another nurse and they connected me up to a machine to take reading of my heart. I was then told to wait to see a doctor, after waiting a further 1:45 min I was called in.

    The doctor done test on my blood pressure along with hearing my heart beat and lungs and a blood test of sugar levels. All came back ok.

    The doctor asked my why I had come to A&E and in my head I was thinking do you need to ask me that , I have been waiting for hours. I explained how I felt and she asked me about my diet and what I had for dinner etc….any way they sent me home.

    A month and 2 weeks later went by. during that time I had 4 smaller Anxiety feelings, so I went to my GP and I dont think he was listing to me as he sent me back to the A&E.

    This time when I went the doctor said that my symptoms point to Anxiety and he said he will inform my GP to run a blood test on me. Soooo……..

    I went back to my GP and was seen by another GP as my one was away on a trip, he looked on my records and the doctor from the UCH london did not even send them the request etc. Well my GP done the blood test and a week later my results came back all normal. My GP had a chat with me and told me its all the mind and that I need to relax perhaps go swimming, ( dont like swimming in indoor pools ) so not good for me) He did not mention anything to me about pills or anything eles but just to relax. I hate getting the feeling when it comes even tho it is in no way as bad as my first few ones. I just learn to get on with it as much as I can But apart of me wants pills to control it but I dont really want to go down that road. I dont think my cold helps!

  6. andrew kitching Says:

    hi guys, my experience at my gp, was pretty straight forward, i explained wat happened the night before and very quickley she said its definately a panic attack that i had. And so i went on to telk her what i was currently feeling so into the computer she went asked me a series of questions on depression and anxiety. Very quickly again she told me i have moderate depression and moderate to high anxiety, so i gets a prescription for prozac, and sent packing with no explanation as to why i was like i am which really made me feel worse. That was 5month ago, i quit the medication after a week because it was making me feel worse. So then i started looking round th web. And came across this site and let me tel you it has helped me understand a hell of a lot more. Although i still feel the symptoms, im understanding and dealing with them. I still have bad days but i get through it. Im due to start a new job and have a holiday booked later in the year. Which gives me something to look forward to and takes my mind off it. I would just like to thank you paul for the site and you have really helped. Will be purchasing the book soon.

  7. sue elks Says:

    hi everyone this is the first time i have posted anything about my anxiety, when i went to my docs i was having a full on panic attack in the surgery, my nurse gave me a ecg which was fine although my heart rate was through the roof . i was given beta blockers and told to come back in a week which i did, i was a mess when i went back having a full on anxiety attack. my doc told me my bp was high and i was suffering from a stress disorder , he put me on serteraline for my anxiety and tabs for my bp , im not very happy about the bp tabs as he wants me to stay on them and im sure my bp is only up because of my anxiety , as for the serteraline i stopped taking them after six weeks as they make me feel worse ,i am still on the beta blokers as well so i feel like a zombie most of the time . i really want to stop taking all the tabs but im so scared mostly about the bp ones . i know i can ween myself of the beta blockers because they only for my fast heart rate when i having a attack but because of pauls book they are not very often now as i am following his advice , and i feel much better not recovered yet but i know i on my way its just the tablets holding me back , any advice would be a great help as this is new to me .ps i do own the book .

  8. sue elks Says:

    just wanted to send another post letting you all know that i am not on the bp tabs at the moment as i had a reaction to them , bp still up but i go into panic when i see the doctor get that dam machine out so i think that makes it worse .

  9. Jennifer Says:

    I had panic attacks and was diagnosed with stress. Since then for nine yrs I’ve had anxiety and no help. Today I’m going to see my doctor but I don’t think he’s going to help me. I feel stuck and miserable, I’ve tried to help myself but it doesn’t seem to be working. See what happens in my appointment, annoying really, I’m anxious about it!

  10. Dawn Says:

    Anxiety is an evil thing! But then I can see positives because it will make you change your life! It’s about trying to keep everything in control and eventually you crumble! You then have to hide your anxiety because everyone thinks your nuts and why should you feel so anxious! I feel sorry for anyone that suffers with anxiety! Thank god for this blog, book and website it’s great and has helped me tons!

  11. Dawn Says:

    I also forgot to add I have been to the DR a million times! Hospital with internal buzzing from my anxiety being at its Max! I have been on all meds but I think the best is reading and educating yourself about flight or fight! When my body I’d full of adrenaline I now get on a Excersise bike! I eat better, juice and don’t drink caffeine! It’s also about taking care of yourself and some foods trigger anxiety! I think we can all overcome it! It’s a challenge but we all will!

  12. Kath Says:

    I am absolutely fuming. I have suffered with anxiety since I was 14 years old(11 years). I never knew what it was for at leat 5 years! I just thought I was a bit strange and prone to fainting (which is what normally happens during a panic attack). Then I had 2 really traumatic things happen in a short space of time. I knew at this point I had anxiety but went on to have depression. I was treated for both things and recently I was able to come off my medication after starting to feel better and really benefitting from therapy. Anyway I started a new job last year and found it really stressful. It got me that down I started to struggle with my anxiety and feel depressed again. I went to the doctors (a new practice as I’d recently moved). I had 2 things I needed to speak to the doctor about. I know you should book double appointments but it was just literally I quick question. I went on to tell her I was feeling down, vertually in tears and she interrupted me with “sorry you need to be quick, this is only a 10 minute appointment”. She wasn’t sympathetic and she just gave me a quick fix off anti depressants that I’d not had before and I wasn’t sure I wanted them because it took me 2 years to come off them. I didn’t stay on them as it made me feel unwell. I managed to get by for a while until I suffered from muscle aches every morning and struggled to get out of bed. I was suffering from chronic fatigue and really bad migraines. The doctors found abnormalities in my blood but later retested and they came back normal. After catching a bad virus and still feeling depressed and anxious I had a week off work sick. I’d decided I needed help and couldn’t carry on feeling like this everyday. Work asked me for a sick note too. The doctor I went to see was huffing and puffing at me when I told him my virus symptoms. He told me I don’t need a doctors note and was so rude that I broke down in tears and told him I thought I was depressed. He was really abrupt and made me feel like I was making it up or mad. He rolled his eyes at me so I told him how the NHS had made me feel recently, like I was a hypercondriac or something. He told me “it’s just my anxiety and paranoia.” He made me tell him all about my past traumatic experience saying “what have you actually suffered from that’s been so traumatic then?” He made me feel like I was waisting his time and he had no sympathy for me at all. He couldn’t get me out of the room quick enough. He let me walk out the door in hysterics and said abruptly “bye then” which meant go away now I’m late for my next patient. Without hearing the tone he was speaking to me in and seeing what happened this story probably doesn’t sound that bad. But honestly this was such a horrid experience. I really feel that a lot of doctors don’t care like they used to. I feel like they don’t understand mental health and these days their priorities are getting through patents as quickly as possible and offering quick fixes. In my eyes being a doctor or a nurse isn’t about just offering a drug to fix a problem. It’s supposed to be a caring profession, offering care physically and mentally and offering support. I’m not saying all doctors are like this but the NHS have got this all wrong. I have family who are nurses and midwifes who used to enjoy the job because it was such a caring job. Now they get all of the paper work etc whilst HCAs take on the bloods and care side of things. I think I’ve rambled on a bit and I have lost my point but I do think people suffering from anxiety and depression are not given good enough support or sympathy. People don’t understand it and think we’re choosing to be like this. People will be sympathetic if you have the flu or sprain your ankle, but anxiety and depression, well that’s just a load of rubbish to some people. I just want to say, anybody suffering from mental health issues I really feel for you. It isn’t easy and everyday is a battle. Maybe we should set up support groups or sign patitions? I don’t know what to do but something is really not right here.

  13. Guy Says:

    Well – it took about six months to understand that my symptoms are actually anxiety and not throat cancer or ALS and guess what?! I’m a Pediatrition!
    I find it hard to believe now a day but I really believed that we all just bodies and the rest it’s hippies nonsense!! The last 18 months turned me upside down. I’m grateful for Paul’s method and book that guided me home again.

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