Everyone experiences some level of anxiety at different times in life. Unlike students who experience brief anxiety leading up to a final exam or those who experience short-lived stress when faced with major life-changing events, people with anxiety disorders experience high levels of anxiety for a minimum of six months. About 40 million Americans aged 18 or over deal with anxiety disorders each year. Here is a look at treatments that can help stop your anxiety.
Types of Anxiety
When anxiety becomes overwhelming or debilitating, treatment becomes necessary. According to the National Institute of Mental Health or NIMH, the most common anxiety disorders are:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social phobia or social anxiety disorder
- Specific phobias
- Generalized anxiety disorder
Many of the treatments of these disorders are similar in nature.
Although medication cannot stop anxiety completely, certain drugs can help to keep symptoms under control while a sufferer gets psychotherapy. Commonly prescribed medications for anxiety include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta blockers.
The most effective form of therapy for most anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. In CBT, sufferers are coached to reframe their thinking about various anxiety-producing triggers. As an individual learns to change her or his thinking patterns, the fear about a situation can be alleviated and even eliminated altogether. Individuals suffering from a panic disorder can learn to discern that panic attacks are not physically threatening.
Breathing exercises and personal relaxation techniques are also often used in CBT. These practices systematically help those with anxiety disorders to relax and reframe situations that have been perceived as threatening.
CBT can also be combined with exposure therapy for individuals with specific phobias. Usually, this process involves gradually exposing the individual to the feared object or situation. At first, the therapist may show the individual a picture or video of the anxiety-producing item. Later, the individual will face the fear in person.
A family doctor or general medical practitioner can diagnose anxiety disorders. It’s important for those who think they may be experiencing anxiety issues to see a doctor first in order to rule out other serious health conditions. Once an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, a physician can assist sufferers in locating a mental health professional with training in CBT. Therapy for anxiety disorders typically lasts about 12 weeks and can include individual sessions, group therapy, or both.