Anxiety is a common feature of modern life. When you worry so much that your anxiety starts to interfere with your everyday life, you may need some sort of anxiety treatment. The source of your anxiety disorder may be a phobia such as fear of spiders or enclosed spaces, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social phobia or social anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). These produce similar symptoms but the anxiety treatment needed to manage them may be very different.
Most types of anxiety give rise to physical symptoms such as diarrhoea, chest pain or dizziness, and psychological symptoms such as irritability, feelings of worry, unease and detachment and difficulty sleeping. Anxiety can affect your physical wellbeing, relationships, work and daily life. Getting anxiety treatment early can be a problem as many people with anxiety fail to recognise that they need help
This article on anxiety disorder treatment is written by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
What types of treatments are available?
There are several different approaches to anxiety disorder treatment, the choice of which depends on the source of your anxiety and how much effect it has on your daily life.
Research has shown that psychological anxiety treatments are more likely to provide long-lasting effects than medications. Even so, many people benefit from a combination of anxiety treatments. Medicines can help you get the worst of your symptoms under control in the short term and talking therapies can then help tackle the source of anxiety and change the way you think. The key to successful anxiety treatment is to work out strategies that allow you to respond better to anxiety triggers in the long term. There are also ways that you can help yourself to feel better by taking care of your physical and emotional well-being.
- Self-help strategies such as taking regular exercise or joining a support group can be a useful part of anxiety treatment for many people. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation can also be effective self-help treatments as they reduce stress and promoting well-being. Caffeine, alcohol, smoking and drug use can all make anxiety worse, so keeping caffeine and alcohol consumption to a minimum and giving up smoking or other drug use are also important when you are following a course of anxiety treatment. Your GP can help with smoking, alcohol or drug dependency.
- Anxiety treatments and talking - Talking therapies such as counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), neural linguistic programming (NLP) or psychoanalysis can work for all types of anxiety disorders including panic disorder and social phobia, as well as generalised anxiety disorder. Cognitive behavioural therapy and neural linguistic programming are effective anxiety treatments that act by challenging negative thinking cycles to gradually change the way you think and respond to the causes of your anxiety. Talking therapies have been shown to be at least as good as medical anxiety treatments for depression, a condition that can occur alongside anxiety and can make symptoms much worse.
- Psychoanalysis - This is a more in-depth type of talking therapy and involves several sessions with a specialist counsellor. He or she will be able to help you to explore your past experiences to find the cause of your anxiety.
- Complementary therapy - Some complementary therapies – including herbal medicines or treatments such as reflexology or acupuncture – claim to be effective anxiety treatments. They may help you to relax and can provide benefit via a ‘placebo effect’ – the fact you are having the treatment helps you to feel more in control and therefore less anxious. However, it is not really clear whether complementary therapies have much direct impact. Some complementary medicines can interfere with prescription medications, so it is important to consult your doctor before starting this form of anxiety treatment.
Some types of anxiety can be treated with medicines, including:
- Tranquillisers such as benzodiazepine can relieve anxieties that are related to short-term stress but are not generally used as long-term anxiety treatments due to the risk of addiction.
- Buspirone works in a similar way to benzodiazepine but is not addictive. Buspirone usually takes around 1 to 2 months to take effect and can help reduce symptoms of tension, such as a pounding heart, dizziness and irritability. It is not usually used as a long-term anxiety treatment.
- Antidepressants can help some anxiety disorders such as depression-associated anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobia.
- Beta-blockers work by blocking physical symptoms of anxiety, helping you to relax more in stressful situations.
Do I need a treatment?
It is always worth taking time out to think about your health. If you have a busy life, anxiety can build up without you realising until it suddenly causes serious problems. If you think you might be suffering from anxiety or depression, it is always worth arranging an appointment to talk to your GP or practice nurse. They can assess you by asking questions and then recommend further appointments if they think that you may benefit from one or more of the anxiety disorder treatments available.