3 Anxiety Disorder Treatment Options That Can Help You

Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC

Published 01/08/2021

Anxiety disorders, while they can be severe and debilitating, are some of the most treatable mental health conditions that people can have. Luckily, there are multiple options available that people can try, and when used in conjunction with one another, people have been successful in managing and overcoming their anxiety disorders. In this article, you will learn about some of the main options you have available to you and what they can do to improve your life.

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Therapy for Anxiety

For fighting anxiety, therapy is one of the biggest tools you have at your disposal. It should always be considered a first-line treatment not just for anxiety but other mental health conditions.

Psychotherapy is not only useful because it allows you to speak to a professional who will listen and understand what you’re going through, but you will learn different techniques and strategies that will help you manage them. There are several different types of therapy methods out there that can be very effective in treating anxiety. Here are some of them:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the most widely-used and most scientifically-supported psychotherapy methods that people can utilize.

When an individual starts CBT with a professional, they will begin to identify the problematic and negative thinking and behavior patterns that create stress and anxiety. By doing that, they can understand and address these types of patterns.

From here, a person can learn how to cope with the patterns, and this can cause the symptoms of anxiety to diminish, making the condition more manageable. Over time, people can overcome their anxiety, as well.

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This is because as your thoughts and behaviors change, you should notice that your overall mood improves along with it. The concept that all of these factors are connected is one of CBT’s main principles and why it works.

CBT’s core strategy is what allows it to be used on a diverse set of mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, some of which may coexist with different anxiety disorders.

In many ways, with CBT, you will become your own therapist because you will learn and develop healthy coping mechanisms that work for you and your situation, and your therapist will help guide you along the way.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy, which is also sometimes referred to as exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, is a technique that is based on what its name suggests.

The premise of exposure therapy is to gradually introduce the client to the source of their stress, which is typically a specific fear or phobia, and by doing so, they can eventually become desensitized and have less anxiety towards it.

For example, someone with social phobia and has severe anxiety towards public speaking and interacting with their peers will place themselves in more situations that call for talking in front of others.

Exposure therapy can seem uncomfortable, stressful, and daunting at first, but your therapist will help the process become more manageable and approachable.

In some cases where the source of anxiety can’t be approached directly, imagining the fear can still be effective. With the careful guidance of a professional, you can greatly reduce or eliminate your anxiety towards specific situations.

As mentioned before, exposure therapy is useful for treating anxiety-related to fear and phobias, but it’s also very well known for helping people overcome OCD and PTSD.

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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Another type of therapy that can work well in treating anxiety is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which is derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy principles, but with some distinctions.

Originally designed to help people with a borderline personality disorder, DBT can reduce emotional distress in a few different ways.

One of the main principles of DBT is to train yourself to be mindful. Mindfulness can help you  become more tolerant of the negative emotions you can face because it can keep you aware of how you feel in the present and accept these emotions even in difficult or uncomfortable situations.

This brings us to the next concept in DBT, which is acceptance and change. This part is the dialectical section that gives this psychotherapy method its name.

A dialectic is essentially a contradiction or debate between two ideas, and here, you must accept where you are currently in your life and how you feel. Still, you can also start taking the necessary steps to change it.

In DBT, people can learn various skills that can be useful for different conditions, such as learning how to build distress tolerance.

Regarding these different methods, therapy for anxiety disorders NOS or specific ones can be performed individually and as a group. People can see amazing progress even in a relatively short period. For example, with cognitive behavioral therapy, people can see significant changes within ten weekly sessions.

Medication for Anxiety

Medication is another option for people who have anxiety disorders, and it’s often recommended because it can help ease many of the symptoms that people have.

Medication for anxiety must be prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist. One of the drawbacks of taking it is that it doesn’t address the source of the anxiety like therapy; however, it can make learning how to cope much easier. Therefore, medication and therapy are often used alongside each other.

These are some of the most common types of prescription medications used to treat anxiety disorders:

Antidepressants

Antidepressant medication is somewhat of a misnomer because many of them, such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), are used to treat other conditions like anxiety disorders and OCD.

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Antidepressants work for anxiety disorders because the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with depression, is responsible for your mood, sleep, thinking, and appetite. All of these can be affected by an anxiety disorder.

SSRIs will help regulate this chemical in your brain, and this can improve several symptoms and make you feel less anxious overall.

Antidepressants like SSRIs are considered to be generally safe and non-addictive, but it’s common for people to experience side-effects when starting treatment, but these usually pass within 4 to 8 weeks. [2]

Additionally, it can take a similar timeframe for the medication to take effect since it needs time to build up in the body.

Therefore, you will have to be patient when using antidepressants because positive changes will happen gradually.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepine drugs are a class of medication that augment the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

GABA is responsible for helping people sleep, relax their muscles, and slow down the brain’s activity, which is why they are often prescribed as a sleep aid. [2]

However, benzodiazepines are also powerful anti-anxiety medications that quickly take effect, but they exit the body relatively fast as well; usually, the entire duration will be a few hours.

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This is one aspect that can make benzodiazepine drugs very dangerous. Despite having relatively-few side effects, people can build a tolerance and become physically dependent on them with repeated use.

Benzodiazepine addiction is a risk that people must be aware of. Still, with a low dose and used in specific situations where you need temporary relief, it can be an effective solution for dealing with anxiety in the short-term.

Nonetheless, because of the potential dangers that benzodiazepine medications have, they are typically considered a second-line treatment, whereas antidepressants will be first-line and recommended over them.

Beta-Blockers

Unlike the previous two types of medications, which involve your brain and neurotransmitters, beta-blockers are quite different. It primarily affects your heart and the rest of the cardiovascular system.

However, they still involve a neurotransmitter known as norepinephrine, which has a strong role in the fight-or-flight response. It is the natural stress hormone that keeps you alert when in times of distress, but unfortunately, this system can become overactive with anxiety disorders.

Beta-blockers, like propranolol, work to block the effects of norepinephrine. Therefore, it can reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, like an increased heart rate, sweating, blushing, trembling, to name a few examples. [3]

While beta-blockers won’t directly reduce the anxiety occurring in your mind, controlling the physical symptoms can be a tremendous relief for people, especially those with panic anxiety disorder, who may have recurring anxiety attacks.  This alone can make people feel more at ease and can feel less anxious, psychologically.

These are also fast-acting medications that typically leave the body within a day, so they are very effective in situations such as having an interview, public speaking, or dealing with performance anxiety in any way.

Always consult with your doctor or psychiatrist about starting any medication and discontinuing use if you experience unwanted side-effects or are dissatisfied with your results – a more appropriate dose or a different medication will be available. Never abruptly stop use, as this can be dangerous, particularly in antidepressants and benzodiazepines.

SELF-CARE FOR ANXIETY

In addition to the treatment options above that require professionals’ assistance, there are steps that you can take on your own to reduce anxiety and improve your mental health.

EXERCISE FOR REDUCING YOUR ANXIETY SYMPTOMS

Taking the time to get some physical activity most days out of the week can be very beneficial in quite a few ways.

If you feel anxious, exercise can promote the release of natural chemicals in your body known as endorphins that are part of the body’s endogenous opioid system. Endorphins can make you feel good and reduce stress and pain, and it’s the reason why people may feel “high” after a great workout. [4]

Exercise can also reduce your blood pressure, make you tired, and improve your sleep, and this is very helpful for people who struggle with sleep disorders, such as insomnia, because of their anxiety.

Lastly, committing to regular exercise can improve your self-esteem by allowing you to create goals for yourself. Even slow progress is good progress, and when people can meet these goals, it can give a powerful boost to their well-being and give them the motivation to keep going and achieve new ones.

Diet

Altering your diet can have a bigger impact on your anxiety than you might think, and if you have anxiety, you should carefully consider what you are consuming each day.

When people feel depressed or anxious, it’s common for people to find relief through comfort foods. These foods are often highly processed and full of unhealthy fats and sugars that taste good and can make you feel better temporarily but are not a good long-term solution.

This is because your glucose levels will spike, and you can feel a rush of energy, but it can quickly come crashing down. This will make you feel tired, lethargic, and start craving more, all of which contribute to anxiety.

Instead, try finding sources of healthy foods that can give you a sustained energy source throughout the day.

Avoiding Substances 

Various substances, even legal ones, can greatly contribute to your anxiety and should be avoided or limited as much as possible.

Unfortunately, many people become dependent on using substances like alcohol and other drugs to cope with their anxiety symptoms, which may require extra treatment to overcome.

Even tobacco and its highly-addictive chemical nicotine can provide relief and a sense of relaxation. Still, it can also overstimulate the brain, and the withdrawal symptoms can make people extremely anxious and irritable.

Caffeine is another neuro-stimulant that may be contributing to your anxiety as well. If you find yourself dependent on coffee or soda, you should consider reducing the amount you consume each day.

Is Anxiety A Mental Disorder?

Anxiety itself is not a mental disorder, but it can be a sign of a much larger underlying issue, or it can develop into an anxiety disorder, which can be formally diagnosed.

To treat anxiety disorder, the most effective diagnosis from a doctor or mental health professional is highly recommended, especially in prescription medications.

However, if you’ve been wondering, “do I have an anxiety disorder?” and want to feel more certain before scheduling an appointment, you can take this brief anxiety test that is completely free.

By completing this generalized anxiety disorder test, you will have a better picture of what you’re experiencing, and this can help you start getting the treatment you need.

Conclusion - There Is Hope If you Have Anxiety

With all of the options available to you, anxiety disorders are among the most treatable mental health conditions around. Hopefully, this article has provided some insight into some of the best ones you can use. By taking advantage of them, including the anxiety disorders test, you can start making changes and living a happier and more fulfilling life.

References

  1. American Psychological Association. (2017, July). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral
  2. Gomez, A. F., & Hoffman, S. G. (2018). SSRIs and Benzodiazepines for General Anxiety Disorders (GAD). Retrieved from https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/ssris-and-benzodiazepines-general-anxiety
  3. Steenen SA, van Wijk AJ, van der Heijden GJ, van Westrhenen R, de Lange J, de Jongh A. Propranolol for the treatment of anxiety disorders: Systematic review and meta-analysis. J Psychopharmacol. 2016;30(2):128-139. doi:10.1177/0269881115612236
  4. Bhandari, S. (2020, February 18). Exercise and Depression: Endorphins, Reducing Stress, and More. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression

en wondering, “do I have an anxiety disorder?” and want to feel more certain before scheduling an appointment, you can take this brief anxiety test that is completely free.

By completing this generalized anxiety disorder test, you will have a better picture of what you’re experiencing, and this can help you start getting the treatment you need.

Conclusion - There Is Hope If you Have Anxiety

With all of the options available to you, anxiety disorders are among the most treatable mental health conditions around. Hopefully, this article has provided some insight into some of the best ones you can use. By taking advantage of them, including the anxiety disorders test, you can start making changes and living a happier and more fulfilling life.