How do I Know if I Need Professional Mental Health Help?
There is no simple way you can be sure about this, but here are some guidelines, any one of which might suggest it to be worthwhile to have an assessment visit with a mental health professional:
- Being an actual, direct victim of terrorism
- Excessive nightmares about terrorism
- Loss of normal emotions toward loved ones
- Feeling numb emotionally
- Unusual change in sleep habits or appetite
- Excessive fatigue
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Unusual startling to sudden noises
- Excessive crying or guilt feelings
- Can’t go to work
- Drinking alcohol excessively or taking non-prescribed drugs
- Persons who know you intimately think you should get help
What Might a Mental Health Professional do to Help Me?
Most people will not require treatment by a mental health professional. Unfortunately, a few persons who were actual victims of injury or who were there and witnessed the injury of others may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can be treated with talk therapy, medication, or both. Talk therapy is special counseling or psychotherapy. Some of these persons may benefit from a PTSD medication such as Paxil (paroxetine) or fluoxetine. Some persons may require anxiety medications such as alprazolam. Depressed patients may require an antidepressant, for example, Celexa (citalopram), Effexor XR (venlafaxine), Paxil (paroxetine), Remeron, or Wellbutrin (buproprion).
What kind of health care professional should I see if I want a consultation?
The first step should be to have a medical evaluation to determine the proper diagnosis. Your family physician is the good place to start. Tell him or her what has been happening to you and that you wonder if you might have PTSD, depression or another anxiety disorder. Print this document, circle the items that concern you, and show it to the doctor.
After the evaluation perhaps the doctor will tell you that you do have a disorder. Then what? You may wish to see a psychiatrist.
Psychiatrists are physicians (MD’s or DO’s). A psychiatrist who is experienced in treating such disorders is perhaps the most qualified single professional to deal with the problem. There is a national shortage of psychiatrists. There may not be one in your area, or your HMO may not allow you to be seen by one of their psychiatrists. In these instances, seeing your regular doctor for medication and consulting a psychologist for cognitive-behavior therapy is good. Psychologists are not physicians (instead of M.D. or D.O., they may have other abbreviations after their name such as Ph.D. or Ed.D. or Psy.D.). If a psychologist isn’t available for therapy, a social worker that is familiar with this therapy can be very helpful.
Terrorism is a terrible and evil thing. We all despise those who have inflicted this scourge on today’s world. We look forward to days when we all feel a little safer at home and abroad. Until that time there are things we can and must do to help our loved ones our neighbors and ourselves. I hope this information has helped you.
Stephen Michael Cox, M.D.
President / Medical Director
National Anxiety Foundation
If This Helped You, We are Glad. As a Favor, Please be Generous and Help us Help the Suffering of Others
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The National Anxiety Foundation (NAF) is a national, non-profit, anxiety – medical health education organization dedicated to those afflicted with anxiety disorders. The officers and board members of the NAF work without pay, donating their time and talents for the betterment of their fellow man. The US Internal Revenue Service recognizes NAF as a tax-exempt humanitarian educational organization. Federal tax ID # 62-1439579
The information on this Web site is presented for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider.
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Written on 27 October, 2001