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When to seek mental health help during the COVID-19 crisis

Posted at 2:18 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 13:17:59-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Many of us are experiencing some level of anxiety and depression during this COVID-19 pandemic, but how do you know when it’s time to get professional help?

“I look at the timeline,” said nationally renowned psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger. “If your bad days are starting to outnumber your good, that’s a good way to gauge how you’re doing.”

Dr. Meztger continued, “If it’s affecting your relationships, or if it’s affecting the way you’re doing your work, like you’re not as productive now, those are the things I would pay attention to.”

Dr. Metzger said while most doctors’ offices are closed right now, virtual therapy sessions are a great option.

“A lot of people think because of what's going on that it's harder to get into a therapist. It's actually easier now because we have more options,” she explained regarding virtual visits. “The issue of distance is no longer an issue.”

Dr. Metzger suggested using the Psychology Today search engine for therapists, which allows you to find help based on insurance and areas of expertise.

“I always say there's nothing wrong with looking for therapists that you think would be a great fit for you,” she said.

Dr. Metzger said she surprisingly found many of her patients who’ve already been seeking treatment for anxiety are better able to handle the stress of the pandemic.

“It's very interesting, because it's like they already have the tools in the toolbox,” she said. “They know what this anxiety feeling is like, so they know the skills to cope with it. Whereas there are people who've never have never experienced this level of anxiety with this abrupt change in our lifestyle, [and it] has just brought on this whole new wave of anxiety that they've never had before.”

Dr. Metzger said while medication may be a good option for some, it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to mental health woes.

“[I want to] debunk the myth that if you talk to a therapist or psychologist, we're automatically going to say you need meds,” she explained. “Sometimes there is like this view of us that we're just kind of prescription pushers and we're like, oh, just take this, just take that. No. It should be more in depth.”

She continued, “We're looking at how you're doing. And you might not need medications or you might. It all depends on the level of severity of the symptoms. But we go into it with an open mind.”

She further explained, “I have some patients who have mild depression and we don't need medication, so we just do therapy. It was always tailored to the patient. You're not automatically going to get on medication, unless you need it.”

“It never hurts to just reach out,” said Dr. Metzger. “There's no harm and getting an evaluation.”