What is the Best Treatment for Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the United States, affecting around 40 million adults. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only around 36% of adults living with anxiety seek treatment.

In this article, we’re exploring one of the most common questions we hear – what is the best treatment for anxiety?

What Is the Best Treatment for Anxiety?

With 40 million people in America living with anxiety, getting the best treatment is crucial. Unfortunately, only a percentage of people seek treatment. Reasons for not seeking treatment can vary. Stigma about mental health still exists, although it is fading. Some feel they should overcome anxiety on their own, without realizing their symptoms are due to multiple causes like genetics, environment, and brain chemistry.

They may not understand their symptoms or understand what type of treatment is best for coping with anxiety issues.

To figure out the best treatment, you must first decide if you are having symptoms of anxiety.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety symptoms will differ for everyone and can range from mild to severe. The sooner you can recognize signs and seek help, the better. Anxiety is a natural reaction to some situations, like being nervous before taking a test, encountering someone or something that makes you uncomfortable, or being in a dangerous situation.

When those symptoms do not leave or occur even when you are not in a stressful situation, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Common mild symptoms include racing heart, fidgeting, racing thoughts, and you may feel like you have a knot in your stomach. More severe symptoms may include panic attacks, phobias, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, inability to sleep, weight changes, and constant worrying that interferes with work and relationships.

If you have even one symptom of anxiety, seek the right kind of help. Seeking treatment early can prevent symptoms from growing and worsening. The treatment provider will offer various methods to help you overcome anxiety, like the ones discussed below.

The Evaluation

If you tell your doctor you have anxiety, and they automatically prescribe a medication without an extensive evaluation, seek a second opinion immediately, preferably from a Psychiatrist who is a medical doctor with a specialty in mental health disorders.

Both psychiatrists and psychologists will evaluate your medical, mental, and family history to determine an accurate diagnosis. They do this because your anxiety may result from a medical problem or something unrelated to mental health.

So, what is the best treatment for anxiety?

The evaluation will help your mental health team, with your help, create the best treatment plan, which will be based on which type of anxiety disorder you have. Generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and social anxiety all require different treatments.

For some, medication may prove to be the first line of treatment.

Anxiety Medications

There are anti-anxiety medicines available that a psychiatrist can prescribe. Medications can help calm your anxious thoughts and behaviors, so you can focus on treatment and healing the root cause of your anxiety.

You can better participate in treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Many refer to CBT as talk therapy. However, it is much more than that. Working with a licensed mental health therapist, you can identify the source of your anxiety and participate in activities tailored to eliminate your symptoms.

CBT focuses mainly on two factors: your thoughts (cognitive) and how your thoughts influence your actions (behavioral). The idea is that unrealistic and negative thinking can trigger anxiety. Learn how to change thoughts, so they are more positive and rational will not trigger episodes of anxiety.

CBT teaches you skills to help you cope with anxiety for the rest of your life. It is one of the most researched and evidence-based treatments showing positive benefits for people with mental illness. CBT is an excellent supplement to more focused treatments, like trauma therapies.

Trauma Therapies

Many who suffer from anxiety have experienced past traumas. Some have been engaged in battle during a war, some have been sexually or physically abused, and some have witnessed a life-changing event like murder or a natural disaster.

Trauma can happen to anyone and can trigger an anxiety disorder. Trauma therapies are necessary to overcome this type of anxiety. Modern treatments include EMDR or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, trauma resilience model, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and post-induction therapy model.

Treatments like these must be lead by a mental health therapist trained and licensed in the specific method.

Exposure Therapy

If you have a phobia, then you know how debilitating your anxiety can be when you are forced to face the thing or person you fear. With exposure therapy, your counselor helps re-introduce that thing back into your life slowly, over a long period. The idea is that the more time you spend around the thing you fear, the more you will realize it is less harmful than you think.

Again, this therapy works to change your thoughts about something with the intent of changing your reaction to it.

An example of exposure therapy is if a person has a fear of swimming in a pool. This fear likely developed due to a traumatic experience in a pool in their past. Exposure therapy is a process that can begin with looking at photos of a swimming pool and addressing symptoms as they appear. Then, the therapist can introduce a video on swimming pools, then visiting a swimming pool in person, then moving closer to the pool, and so on until they can feel comfortable entering the pool without fear.

While this process may take a while, it has proven to be successful.

Additional Treatment for Anxiety

Supplemental treatments to enhance therapies like the ones listed above are ones you can practice at home. They include stress management techniques like deep breathing and meditation, biofeedback, mindfulness, hypnosis, and even diet and exercise changes that promote positive mental health.

If you are struggling with symptoms of anxiety, help is available. Even if you’re not sure, your symptoms are related to anxiety, seek guidance from a mental health center. You don’t have to figure this out all by yourself.

Remember, there are over 40 million people diagnosed with anxiety. It is a common ailment that is very treatable. With help, you can overcome your issues with anxiety and get back to living the good life you deserve.