Millions of people struggle with anxiety in their daily lives. This anxiety level may be so extreme that it severely prohibits a person’s ability to function and complete daily tasks. Some people are successful at learning to deal with anxiety on their own; however, many more people need more than self-help techniques. Fortunately, there are professional treatments available for anxiety disorders that can help patients overcome feelings of anxiety and live a normal life. Here are a few of the most common treatments used for treating these disorders.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been successful in treating many people with anxiety. The goal of CBT is to change how patients think in order to eliminate the beliefs and thought patterns that drive the feelings of anxiety. Methods for changing these thought patterns are taught during therapy sessions, and the patient is expected to practice these methods and techniques between sessions.
Exposure therapy encourages patients to confront their fears in an appropriate, safe environment. Patients are exposed to the object or situation they fear in order to reduce sensitivity and gain control. Patients learn how to respond appropriately to specific stimuli. This is often used for individuals with phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Unlike behavioral therapies, medications are not used to “cure” anxiety. However, they can be very successful at keeping the anxiety symptoms under control. There are a few different types of medications that are commonly used.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants are used to change the brain chemistry to treat depression. Anxiety disorders and depression often occur at the same time, so treating depression often improves anxiety symptoms. These medications help the brain cells communicate with each other.
Anti-anxiety drugs: Anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines are used to prevent feelings of anxiety. They are successful at treating varying degrees of anxiety, from generalized anxiety disorders to social phobias and panic disorder. These drugs are usually prescribed for short-term management so that patients don’t become dependent.
Beta-blockers: Beta-blockers are used to treat heart conditions and can be helpful in preventing physical symptoms often go with anxiety disorders. These may be prescribed for situations that are known to induce anxiety, such as public speaking situations.
Many medical professionals prefer to use a combination of therapy and medication treatment in order to treat both the physical and psychological effects of anxiety. Medication is often used to treat severe symptoms of anxiety so that behavioral therapy treatments will be more effective. Once coping techniques are learned, the patient is often usually able to gradually taper down the dose of medication until it is no longer needed.