Anxiety disorders are commonly treated with psychotherapy and/or medication. The method of treatment often depends on the specific symptoms, severity of the problem, and individual preferences. It is important to remember that no treatment is a quick fix and sometimes several different treatments or combinations will need to be tried before finding the right fit. The good news is that anxiety disorders are treatable and many individuals show great improvement when engaging in supportive treatment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective and empirically validated treatment for anxiety disorders. CBT focuses on the connection between cognitions, emotions, and behaviors. This means time is spent identifying and understanding thinking and behavioral patterns related to anxiety as well as challenging these patterns to become more flexible and adaptive. One method of challenging thoughts and behaviors is through exposure. Exposure techniques include gradual encounters with the object or situation associated with anxiety or fear. Although this sounds scary, people find that if they stay with their anxiety long enough it will naturally decrease. With repeated practice the situations will no longer feel as uncomfortable as you are retraining your brain to recognize that ultimately nothing terrible will happen. Other techniques may include breathing and relaxation exercises, changing ones environment, or increasing problem-solving and coping skills. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a highly active treatment that requires commitment and readiness to engage.
Medication can also be combined with psychotherapy for specific anxiety disorders. Medication can often be helpful in reducing symptoms while beginning to engage in psychotherapy. Common medications include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Medication can be a short-term or long-term treatment option depending on the circumstances, however it often takes time and patience to find the drug that works the best for each individual. Medications can be prescribed by psychiatrists or physicians.