It is always wise to see your family doctor for a medical check-up first. In this day of lawsuit-happy Americans, physicians often feel compelled out of legal fears to go farther than they would prefer in ordering expensive tests to rule out a ‘medical’ cause of your symptoms before declaring that it must be an anxiety problem. Still, it is absolutely imperative that you start with this check-up.
You might be wise, however, to mention to the doctor that you are suspicious that anxiety is possibly the root of your problem. Saying this to your doctor will let them know that you have an open mind about this possibility. If, after talking with you, examining you and checking some routine tests, they are confident that you have an anxiety disorder, they know that you are open to that possibility. They won’t feel compelled to have to prove it to you by ordering needless tests.
If the check-up by your family physician fails to find any other common medical cause for your symptoms, a psychiatrist is the best person to evaluate you for a final diagnosis. The reason why it is best to see a psychiatrist for diagnosis, is that they have more educational background than any other professional in this area. When you are seeking a correct diagnosis for your condition, you want to be seen by someone who is most likely to not overlook what is wrong with you. For example, if you have ochranosis, a rare medical disorder that may cause anxiety, your condition would more likely to be missed by a psychologist or a counselor (psychologists and counselors don’t go to medical school) than by a psychiatrist (psychiatrists complete medical school before learning to specialize in psychiatry).
Treatment, on the other hand, is a different story. If you saw a psychiatrist for evaluation, depending upon the diagnosis, your treatment may then be handled by the psychiatrist or they may ask you to see a psychologist or a counselor instead of, or with, the psychiatrist.
The distinction between these professionals often confuses many laypersons. Here again is a layperson’s guide to what those confusing abbreviations after the professional’s name usually mean:
M.D. or D.O.
Ph.D., Psy.D., or Psy.Ed
LCSW or MSW
(too many to list, & some have no credentials at all – be careful!)