There are several treatments available for anxiety, though they may differ depending on a person’s specific symptoms. Although treatment may not cure anxiety, many people still gain relief through effective, evidence-based treatment.
Treatment for anxiety most often involves a combination of medication and selected forms of therapy. Some professionals recommend a combination of these two treatment options with alternative treatments, like meditation or exercise.
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Medications are often used to suppress anxiety. The use of medications might be useful for people whose anxiety interferes with their everyday functioning. Medication may help to make life easier for the patient by decreasing symptoms of anxiety, like muscle tension, restlessness and impatience.
People may take medication alongside therapy to help resolve the underlying cause of their anxiety. Many medical professionals prescribe low doses of medications designed to control anxiety to reduce the risk of overuse and addiction.
Benzodiazepines are a class of anti-anxiety medications. This line of drugs is frequently used to reduce anxiety in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. Highly potent benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Valium, can relieve symptoms quickly with only a few side effects.
Although its side effects are limited, benzodiazepines can cause dependence or addiction and many people abuse these drugs for their euphoric properties. Because individuals can quickly develop a tolerance to these medications, therapists may only prescribe benzodiazepines for short periods of time.
The short-term use of benzodiazepines may help avoid the need to continually increase the dosage to get the necessary effect. Individuals with a history of drug or alcohol abuse are not ideal candidates for this method of treatment because they may become dependent.
Buspirone is a newer, but common, anti-anxiety medication used to treat general anxiety disorder. Buspirone has a few side effects that are usually much stronger when the individual begins to take the medication.
The possible side effects of buspirone include dizziness, headaches and nausea. Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone must be taken consistently for at least two weeks to achieve an anti-anxiety effect.
While anxiety and depression are separate disorders, some medications that are approved for treating depression may also be effective for anxiety disorders. These selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants that are usually taken for several weeks before symptoms start to fade.
Patients may feel discouraged and stop taking these medications when they do not experience relief in their symptoms within a few days. But it is important to give the medication time to work. Some of the most prescribed SSRI medications for anxiety include Paxil, Zoloft and Luvox.
Therapy For Anxiety
Some individuals with anxiety may experience unpleasant side effects or express a desire to avoid medications, which is not uncommon. Anxiety therapy is an effective route for reducing symptoms without the use of medications. Therapy can help individuals limit their distorted thinking and irrational fears by examining their worries more realistically.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a prevalent form of psychotherapy. Through CBT, individuals can learn to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to anxious feelings. This form of psychotherapy can inspire people to recognize the connection between their thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
CBT focuses on changing thinking that encourages the individual’s fears and then changing the way they react to situations that can induce anxiety. This understanding can allow the individual to find and control the underlying source of their anxiety. CBT generally lasts around 12 weeks and can be conducted in a group setting with people who have similar problems.
Many mental health professionals encourage people to attend individual and group therapy. Group therapy can be effective for individuals with social phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
These patients often get more out of treatment when they have people whom they feel can relate to their daily struggles. Individuals in similar situations can serve as a support system and provide advice to people with anxiety problems.
When treating anxiety, an occupational therapist typically aims to identify symptoms of anxiety through detailed assessment and provide therapy to them. The main role of an occupational therapist is to correct the behavior by providing different approaches and activities.
One of the goals of therapeutic intervention is for the mental health professional to build a rapport with the patient. Another goal is to teach about the importance of relaxation techniques, physical exercise, coping strategies and systematic desensitization in people with anxiety disorders.
Alternative Treatments for Anxiety
Other behavioral techniques have been helpful in teaching people with anxiety to relax. Deep breathing, biofeedback and meditation techniques can be effective relaxation aids and may help control the muscle tension that often accompanies anxiety disorders.
- Meditation: Taking time to clear the mind can allow people with anxiety to relax. Meditation can change the way these individuals respond to the world. Successful meditation can help the patient better understand the source of their anxiety and ways to better manage it.
- Breathing Exercises: Breathing techniques can help people learn to control their breathing to avoid hyperventilation during an anxiety-producing event. These techniques can help to keep the individual calm by bringing more oxygen into the body, which can help them feel less tense, anxious and short of breath.
- Acupuncture for Anxiety: Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese treatment for anxiety, depression and other health conditions. During acupuncture, a practitioner sticks thin, sharp needles into the upper layers of skin, at points of the body that correspond with different organs. Acupuncture works by activating natural painkilling chemicals in the brain. For some people, acupuncture can help reduce or eliminate anxiety.
- Yoga: Yoga combines breathing techniques, meditation and stretching through both moving and stationary postures. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, yoga is one of the top 10 alternative practices used to treat a variety of disorders, including anxiety and depression. When practiced regularly, relaxation can become easier to achieve. Many people who participate in yoga learn ways to use specific poses and movements to become more relaxed and avoid injury.
Treating Anxiety and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse
Treating a co-occurring diagnosis of anxiety and substance abuse may be more complicated than treating anxiety alone. A physician typically addresses both the patient’s psychiatric, anxiety-related symptoms as well as their uncontrollable desire to abuse substances. If people with anxiety do not address their substance use issues, they may experience a recurrence of anxiety problems. Conversely, receiving treatment for both disorders can decrease a person’s chance of experiencing a setback in their recovery.
Treatment usually involves developing strategies to avoid drug use stimuli to avoid a setback in recovery. These strategies might include making positive lifestyle changes, finding new hobbies, relying on the support of loved ones and developing action plans in the case of recurrence of use. These therapies can help patients set and achieve goals and learn to use healthy coping and relaxation techniques. Individuals learn to recognize their negative behaviors and how to make positive direction changes, away from substance use and toward an understanding of the underlying trauma that caused their anxiety.
If you are or a loved one needs assistance locating treatment, The Recovery Village can help. Individuals who simultaneously experience anxiety and substance use problems can receive help from one of the facilities located throughout the country. If you or a loved one has anxiety and addiction, call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.