Treating anxiety disorders
There are effective treatments for anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders can be complicated. The right treatment plan will depend on many factors, including which anxiety disorder you have, how you respond to medication and other therapies, how much stress you’re under, and your personal history. By working with a healthcare professional, you can find the treatment plan that’s right for you.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a therapist helps you examine and change the way you think and feel about anxiety and the stress that produces it. CBT also helps you develop skills to change the way you respond to your fears and anxiety when they arise.
Cognitive therapy focuses on thoughts and how they are related to the anxiety you feel. A therapist helps you become aware of your thought patterns and change them to reduce anxiety. Behavioral therapy helps you learn to replace your anxious responses with more positive behaviors. For instance, you might use relaxation techniques like deep breathing.
Exposure therapy is a cognitive behavioral therapy that has proven helpful for anxiety disorders. In exposure therapy, a therapist helps you safely approach your fears. You might do this indirectly, by retelling or writing your memories and fears. Or, in what is called “in vivo” exposure, a therapist might work with you to directly approach your fears in a slow and controlled way. For example, a therapist might work with someone with a fear of flying to approach their fears and eventually go on a flight.
In exposure therapy, your fears lose their emotional “punch” and you learn that you can handle your anxiety responses. The anxieties can lose their intensity and power to disrupt your life as your symptoms lessen.
There are several options for medication if you are experiencing an anxiety disorder. These medications usually fall into one of three categories: antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Antianxiety medications, while effective, tend to be a short-term rather than a long-term solution for handling your anxiety. More common medications for treating anxiety are the antidepressants. These include the drugs that are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). The response to medications depends on the individual; what works well for one person may not work well for someone else. It’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the right medication and dosage for you.