Anxiety is among the most common, most treatable mental disorders. Currently, effective therapies for anxiety disorders are available to help treat anxiety problems. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, 90 percent of people with emotional illnesses will improve or recover if they receive treatment. With proper treatment, many people experiencing anxiety disorders can lead normal, fulfilling lives.
Frequently, anxiety disorders are complex and difficult to treat because they are accompanied by depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. But when the anxiety disorder is effectively dealt with, drug abuse and secondary depression will also usually decline.
In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or both. Treatment choices for anxiety will depend on the cause and type of problem to address as well as personal preference. Sometimes people try several different treatments or combinations of treatment before they find method(s) that works for them.
Medication will not cure anxiety disorders, but drugs can help manage anxiety while the person receives psychotherapy. Medication must be prescribed by physicians, usually psychiatrists, who can either offer psychotherapy themselves or work as a team with psychologists, social workers, or counselors. The principal medications used for anxiety disorders include:
Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor, to discover the cause of an anxiety disorder and to learn how to deal with its symptoms. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is particularly useful in treating anxiety disorders. This therapy model helps people change both the thinking patterns that support irrational fears and the reaction to anxiety-provoking situations. Learning relaxation techniques and biofeedback can also help treat anxiety.
Stress management techniques and meditation can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and may enhance the effects of therapy. There also is preliminary evidence that aerobic exercise may have a calming effect for those suffering from anxiety. Avoiding caffeine, illicit drugs, and even some over-the-counter cold medications can help prevent aggravation of the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Many people with anxiety disorders benefit from joining a self-help or support group and sharing their problems and achievements with others. Talking with a trusted friend or member of the clergy can also provide support, but is not a substitute for care from a mental health professional. The family is also a very important in the recovery process for a person diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Ideally, the family should be supportive but not help perpetuate their loved one's symptoms.
Once you find a mental health professional you trust, you will work as a team to treat your anxiety disorder together. If you do not feel comfortable talking with the psychologist or psychiatrist you choose, you should seek help elsewhere. Research is uncovering new treatments that can help most people with anxiety disorders lead productive, fulfilling lives. By learning more about how the brain creates fear and anxiety, scientists may be able to devise better treatments for anxiety disorders.