Anxiety is treated by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals.
Anxiety disorders sometimes coexist with other conditions, such as depression or substance use disorder. It’s important that other mental health conditions are also addressed.
Treatment options for anxiety include:
Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is very effective in treating anxiety disorders and is associated with improved quality of life.
CBT is based on the idea that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related. Changing the way you think changes the way you feel and, in turn, changes your behavior.
Similarly, changing your behavior can also change the way you think and feel.
In CBT, you start out with a set number of sessions, typically 20 or fewer. Sessions focus on specific problems and changing the way you deal with them. You practice with your therapist and on your own in between sessions.
One common method of treating anxiety disorders is a type of CBT called exposure therapy. This involves identifying the things that cause anxiety and then, in a safe setting, systematically exposing yourself to them, virtually or in real life.
This method may also involve learning relaxation techniques, a form of exposure therapy called systematic desensitization that incorporates relaxation techniques as well.
As you’re exposed to a stressful or feared situation or thing in a safe setting, you begin to feel less anxious about it.
Exposure therapy is a short-term treatment, usually 10 sessions or fewer.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, involves one-on-one sessions with a therapist.
During therapy, you can speak openly about your anxieties and other concerns. Your therapist can help you identify problems and work on strategies to overcome them.
When anxiety is unmanageable with therapy alone, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications such as:
- serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- tricyclic antidepressants
When prescribed for anxiety, these medications are typically combined with therapy.