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Posted: Friday, August 1, 2014

Diagnosing anxiety and depression

It's safe to assume that, if you've lived any significant length of time, you've probably experienced feelings of anxiety and depression at some point. In fact, most of us are very good at knowing and realizing when we are experiencing these feelings. We're also quite adept at recognizing when our feelings cross the line from normal reactions to stressors to more serious symptoms that need further treatment. What's more difficult, though, is knowing what type of treatment we need to make ourselves better. Much in the way you can take your own blood pressure and still need a doctor to help you figure out why it's high and how to treat it, with depression or anxiety, there may be underlying causes that only a professional can help you discover and treat.

Psychiatrist Dr. Julia Wood from Parkway Psychiatric Service says while diagnosing symptoms of anxiety and depression may begin with a self-diagnosis, treatment often begins with a consultation with a primary care physician. "Primary care physicians are a great place to start when it comes to talking about your symptoms," she said. "They are well-trained in treating those symptoms and know when to refer you to a psychiatrist. Alternatively, many people come to my office after seeing a therapist who recommends treatment with medication. Sometimes, I see people who simply make an appointment with me because they want treatment for their symptoms and want to see a psychiatrist," she explained. "As a psychiatrist, I have the luxury of focusing primarily on psychiatric symptoms and taking a very detailed psychiatric history," she added.

For a first-timer, meeting with a psychiatrist can be a unique experience. "Most people I meet who are seeing a psychiatrist for the first time are nervous," Wood said. "However, almost everyone tells me they feel better by the end of the meeting. When I first meet with patients, we work on getting background details, including their early life, family history, substance use, medical problems and their recent symptoms. By the end of that first meeting, I usually can tell my patient what his or her diagnosis is. If I'm still uncertain after the first meeting, I will go over what I suspect may be going on and how we can form a more certain conclusion," she explained. "At that point, I also discuss my treatment recommendations and we will come to a collaborative decision about the next step in treatment," Wood added.

When it comes to identifying signs of anxiety and depression in others, Wood says there are specific things you can look for. "While most people can identify their own symptoms, friends and family often can serve to encourage someone to seek treatment," she said. "Signs of depression can include sadness, frequent crying, irritability, isolation, loss of interest in things that were previously enjoyed, sleeping too much or not enough, gaining or losing weight, and talking about suicide or the desire to be dead. The latter would require more urgent intervention, of course," she explained.

Dr. Wood sees patients at Parkway Psychiatric Service, located at 451 Blount Memorial Physician Office Building in Maryville. If you or a loved one are experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety and would like help, appointments are available Monday through Friday. For more information or to schedule an initial appointment, call Parkway Psychiatric Service at 865-980-5377.

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