Who can prescribe anxiety medication?

August 25, 2022

After months or even years of questioning, you’ve finally accepted that you may have generalized anxiety disorder or another type of anxiety. That’s a huge accomplishment, and you should be letting out a big sigh of relief.  

But instead, you’re struggling to find someone who can help you figure out if medication is right for you. We get that realizing you have a mental health condition can feel like unraveling a big knot just to find an even tougher knot inside it. After all, asking for the help you need is scary enough without having to do it multiple times because you can’t find the right person to help you.

That’s why we created this guide to all the different types of medical professionals who can prescribe anxiety medication. Ultimately, the best type of clinician for you is going to depend on your specific needs and preferences, but the more information you have, the easier it’ll be to make the right decision.

Who can prescribe anxiety medication?

Venn diagramming showing the overlap between psychiatrists, primary care doctors, and psychiatric nurse practitioners.

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in mental health. Whether they're medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs), they’ve been to medical school and undergone four years of additional training in psychiatry.

Psychiatrists can evaluate their patients’ symptoms, diagnose mental health conditions, prescribe medication, and sometimes offer talk therapy as well. Of course, that means they can both diagnose anxiety and prescribe medications to treat it.

Compared to the other types of professionals we’re about to discuss, psychiatrists have the most education in mental health conditions. Some even pursue extra training in fellowship programs and take exams to become board-certified in particular specialties, like child and adolescent psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, and geriatric psychiatry.

Talkiatry is a psychiatry practice that offers in-network care from top-rated doctors. Ready to get matched with a psychiatrist and schedule your first virtual visit? Get started.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners

Psychiatric nurse practitioners are medical professionals who specialize in mental health. Every nurse practitioner attends nursing school as well as a master’s program, and psychiatric nurse practitioners choose to specialize in psychiatry.

Like psychiatrists, nurse practitioners can assess their patients’ symptoms, diagnose conditions, prescribe medication, and sometimes conduct talk therapy. Depending on the laws where they work, they might need a physician’s supervision.

Primary care doctors

Primary care doctors are generalists who treat a wide range of common symptoms. Like psychiatrists, they’ve been to medical school and completed additional training (typically in family medicine or internal medicine), but they often refer more complicated cases to psychiatrists.  

Primary care doctors can evaluate symptoms, diagnose conditions, and prescribe medication like any other doctor. Their general training means they can recognize anxiety and treat it, but if your situation is complex or outside of their expertise, they might prefer to refer you to a psychiatrist.

Many people turn to their primary care doctors for anxiety medication because they’re accessible. But because these doctors don’t have as much mental health training as psychiatrists, they may not be aware of all the treatment options available to you.

What about psychologists?

You might be wondering why psychologists aren’t on the list above. That’s because psychologists aren’t medical doctors and usually can’t prescribe medication for anxiety. However, they can diagnose conditions and provide tools for understanding and managing symptoms.

Curious about any other roles we didn’t mention here? You can get more details in our guide to the different types of mental health providers.

How do I decide who to see?

Making a mental healthcare appointment is always a personal decision, so there’s no option that’s best for everyone. You’ll need to consider your specific situation and goals to make the right decision for you.

That said, there are a few major factors you’ll want to consider, including:

  • Your concerns: If you’re dealing with occasional bouts of anxiety, you might feel like it’s enough to just ask your primary care doctor for medication when you need it. But if your symptoms become more serious, it’s best to see  a psychiatrist.
  • Your medical history: If you’ve seen psychiatrists for your anxiety in the past or been admitted into an inpatient program, it’s likely that you will be best served by seeing a psychiatrist again.  
  • Your location: If you don’t live in a big city, you might have a harder time finding a psychiatrist in your area and seeing a primary care doctor may be a good backup. However, there are great options for virtual psychiatric care, including at Talkiatry.
  • Your financial situation: Many psychiatrists don’t take insurance, reducing access to care. So that may make seeing a primary care doctor a good option. But Talkiatry is in-network with all major insurers, so make sure to check your coverage if you’re interested in scheduling an appointment.

Do I have to see a doctor in person?

Fortunately, the days when people would have to travel for miles just to sit on a psychiatrist’s couch are long gone. You have plenty of options when it comes to pursuing virtual care.

However, it’s important to make sure that the virtual practice you work with is high quality, with top-rated doctors, visits that aren’t rushed, and personalized treatment plans. One big indicator that you’re working with an excellent practice: its staff consists predominantly of psychiatrists, not nurse practitioners, since psychiatrists have the most training and are best equipped to provide the finest care.  

How do I tell my doctor I think I have anxiety?

Even after you find the right clinician and schedule an appointment, you might still feel a little apprehensive. There’s nothing easy about asking for help, especially with a concern as personal as anxiety. But it’s important to keep in mind that your clinician isn’t there to judge you or tell you whether you’re anxious enough to deserve medication.  

“Your psychiatrist already believes you deserve care,” says Dr. Georgia Gaveras, triple board-certified psychiatrist and co-founder of Talkiatry. “And their main goal is figuring out how best to help you.” (And if it doesn’t seem like they believe those things? Then it’s time to find a new doctor.)

So, the best way to communicate with your doctor is clearly, openly, and honestly. Looking for more specific advice? Check out our guide to what to expect at your first mental health appointment.

What’ll happen after my appointment?

You may not have thought this far ahead yet (and that’s okay!), but you should know what to expect after your appointment. Unlike a simple infection or flu, you can’t fix anxiety with a single prescription. You’ll need to work with your doctor over time to track your symptoms and manage your medications as you progress.

That might sound like a lot of work, but it’ll benefit you in the long run. Eventually, you’ll have a productive relationship with a doctor who knows you, your history, and your preferences.

It’s unfair that the process of getting anxiety medication can itself be so anxiety-inducing. But once you’ve found the right clinician, you’re most of the way there. Looking for a simple, clear process for finding a psychiatrist and getting the medication you need? Get started with Talkiatry.

Content from the Talkiatry website and blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The intent of the information provided on this website is for general consumer understanding and entertainment only.

Share:

Interested in pursuing psychiatric care at Talkiatry?

Take our free and easy assessment to receive a preliminary diagnosis that will give you a better understanding of your current symptoms and the type of treatment you may need.