How to Treat Anxiety?

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder you will likely be looking for methods to handle or avoid the impact it can have. The good news is that these disorders are highly treatable. Treatments for anxiety come in various forms and on this page is a breakdown of the most common methods and information on how to treat anxiety.

Therapy

One of the most effective ways to treat anxiety is through therapy. The most widely used forms of therapy for anxiety are cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

CBT is known to be highly effective for the treatment of many anxiety-related conditions. It combines two branches of therapy – cognitive therapy, which analyses how cognitions (negative thoughts) impact upon levels of angst; and behaviour therapy, which looks at how you react to certain triggers and situations.

One of the key aspects of CBT is thought challenging. This is the concept of redesigning your negative thoughts into positive ones, and follows 3 main steps:

  • Identifying negative thoughts.
  • Challenging negative thoughts.
  • Replacing them with more realistic thoughts.

This may sound simple, but when certain habits and thoughts have been formed through a lifelong pattern of thinking, it takes a considerable amount of practice to be able to replace these negative thoughts with updated realistic ones.

  • Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy can be very effective for people with anxiety. This type of therapy involves confronting any form of stimuli which can evoke fear or anxiousness within a person. Various types of stimuli are encouraged to be confronted– they can be objects, places, situations, and sensations, among other things. The general aim of exposure therapy is to lessen the anxiety that an individual can feel when reacting to the stimuli in question.

Exposure therapy works on the basic principle that if you avoid a fear, it becomes stronger. For example, if you skip giving a speech at a friend’s wedding because your too anxious, the next time you are due to give a speech, the feeling of anxiety could be twice as bad.

This type of therapy generally uses systematic desensitisation to counter anxiousness. This is a step-by-step approach to facing your fears that starts with small challenges and gradually increases to a level where you are confident enough to encounter your strongest fears. It involves three parts:

  • Learning relaxation skills – such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation.
  • Creating an action plan – here you will create a step-by-step list with measurable goals that will eventually lead to you facing your fear.
  • Working though the steps – this final stage involves working through all the steps outlined in the action plan.

Self-help

If you want to take immediate action against anxiety disorders, there are plenty of things you can start doing right away to help yourself – and many can be done from the comfort of your own home.

  • Regular exercise. This is a great way to treat anxiety in both the long and short term. When you exercise, the brain chemical serotonin is released at an increased rate and this can improve your mood considerably. The NHS recommends that people should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week.
  • Avoid caffeine. Consuming too many caffeine-rich drinks can aggravate feelings of anxiousness as it speeds up the heartbeat. Additionally, people often consume caffeine when they are feeling tired, and this can further exacerbate anxiety as tiredness leads to people being less able to handle their emotions.
  • Avoid drinking and smoking. If you feel unable to control and reduce your intake of any harmful substances, you should look for help from one of the many support groups throughout the country.
  • Contact support groups. As mentioned above, contacting support groups can be a great outlet for people who want to share their experiences with anxiety, and talking alone can often alleviate some of the symptoms you are feeling.

Medication

If you have tried the strategies above and are still struggling to treat anxiety, it may be beneficial to seek out medication through your doctor. Medication can be prescribed for people when their anxiety is severe enough to inhibit their ability to function properly. Some of the medications that you may be offered are:

  • Various antidepressants can be offered, but they will usually be a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
  • Beta-blockers. These are generally prescribed to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as heart palpitations and increased heartrate.
  • Benzodiazepine tranquilisers. This medication acts as a sedative and slows the body’s functions down by increasing the activity of a chemical in the brain called gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). It can lead to reduced anxiety and relaxation in the short term, but their effectiveness can wear off if used for a prolonged period.
  • This drug is an antiseizure that is normally prescribed for epilepsy. However, it is also used for anxiety due to its minor tranquilising effect.