What treatments help patients with anxiety?
Dr. Sony Sherpa is a holistic physician running a holistic health clinic and author at Nature’s Rise, an organic wellness company.
A Comprehensive Treatment Plan
Patients dealing with anxiety have vast treatment and therapy options available to them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is widely accepted as one of the most effective treatments for helping people manage their anxiety. Through CBT, patients work with a therapist to recognize distorted thought patterns that contribute to their anxieties and learn how to process these anxieties in healthier ways. CBT is typically conducted in weekly sessions with a therapist, and patients may also be given homework assignments to practice outside of the session.
Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and music therapy can help to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. These techniques can be learned from a therapist or through self-help books or online resources.
Regular exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety. Exercise can help to reduce stress levels, improve mood, and increase overall well-being. Patients should aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week.
Meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness activities help teach individuals to approach anxiety-provoking situations without fear or trepidation.
Medication may be necessary to manage anxiety. There are several different types of medications that can be used to treat anxiety, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and beta-blockers. Remember that a prescription for these medications is required.
Comprehensive Treatment Plan
Ultimately, a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to the unique needs of the individual is often the best strategy for managing long-term anxiety.
Learning to Recognize and Communicate Needs
Anxiety often happens because of our thoughts about a situation. The negative and untrue things we tell ourselves about a situation can make us feel on edge, uncomfortable, less than, and worried.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a great therapy to help clients heal from anxiety. Examining our thoughts and the truth about our lives can help us recognize the beginning of our anxiety.
Anxiety often makes us avoid situations that bring discomfort and make us feel uneasy. Gradually leaning into doing things we need to do can be very helpful. Practicing recognizing our thought patterns and testing whether or not the thoughts are true can help us learn to grow past our avoidance and fear.
Learning to recognize and communicate our needs is also super helpful. Sometimes we shut down, and we don’t even know what we need. Then our needs don’t get met, and we become anxious and feel less than, unworthy, and left out. Taking the time to identify our needs – the need for love, closeness, belonging, and approval – and communicating that to ourselves and others can reduce negative feelings that may come with anxiety.
Psychodynamic therapy can be a transformative treatment that can restructure a person’s defenses to get to the bottom of their suffering. Through this treatment, anxiety is identified and regulated to tap into the feelings tapped out of awareness, by the anxiety.
Psychodynamic treatment is sometimes the forgotten sister to CBT. This treatment gets to the core of the issue driving anxiety; it’s much more effective than only managing it or dealing with it.
Of course, CBT, REBT, ACT, and any mindfulness practice including roots like trees and plants, or music, art, exercise and forms of martial arts, and cultural/belief system. A licensed therapist knows how to weave these into the treatment to help bring about healing, so anxiety doesn’t need to protect from scary emotions that come up on a daily basis.
If [you are] managing and needing a quick fix before an exciting or stressful situation, just breathe. Deeply through the nose for a count of about four and exhale through the nose, count of eight, slowly [for] four rounds. This turns the parasympathetic system into rest and relaxation. Ground with the feet and look around, naming items and colors.
Big breath in and exhale vigorously through the mouth. If the head is fuzzy or the stomach is queasy, give more time to regulate, as this is higher anxiety and needs to be honored before pushing through it. And remember, some things are just exciting, and excitement can often mark as anxiety, so pay attention to what is truly happening-be present and be mindful of the self.
Gestalt therapy is an effective treatment for anxiety. Gestalt therapy is an approach that focuses on the here-and-now present state of the person and invites the person to feel and accept their experience without judgment, no matter how painful it may feel. Anxiety is essentially having feelings about the future and projecting a negative outcome. Extreme anxiety can result in panic and panic attacks. Gestalt works by first bringing the person into awareness of the present moment, and with that awareness, the person has the possibility of learning new ways to support themself.
Gestalt therapy focuses on the relationship [between] the therapist and client, so trust has to be established within the relationship. Therapy serves as a space to explore when anxiety arises in the here-and-now session and highlights how the person deals with it. As the person gains awareness of their feelings and coping strategies, they can learn new ways of managing their feelings and actions while coming back to the present and supporting themselves.
Brianda Teterukov is a Licensed Professional Counselor and founder of AZ Therapy Quest.
Internal Family Systems and Somatic Experiencing
Below is a list of evidence-based therapies that are effective for anxiety, especially if combined:
IFS (Internal Family Systems) is a therapeutic approach that aims to help you understand and manage your different “parts” or sub-personalities. These parts can include a critical inner voice, a “protector” that keeps you safe by avoiding certain situations or people, and an “exile” that holds painful memories or emotions.
IFS therapy helps you identify and understand these different parts and how they interact with one another. By becoming aware of these parts, you can learn to regulate your emotions and thoughts, reducing symptoms of anxiety or completely eliminating them.
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a therapeutic approach that focuses on the connection between mind and body and how unresolved physical and emotional experiences can lead to symptoms of anxiety.
SE therapy helps individuals identify and process traumatic or overwhelming experiences that have been stored in the body, leading to symptoms such as anxiety, tension, and stress. By bringing awareness to the physical sensations associated with these experiences, individuals can begin to release the stored energy, leading to a decrease in symptoms of anxiety.
CBT is a therapeutic approach that focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is based on the idea that negative thoughts and beliefs can lead to negative emotions and behaviors and that by changing these thoughts and beliefs, individuals can improve their emotional and behavioral responses.
In CBT for anxiety, individuals work with a therapist to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that are contributing to their anxiety symptoms. The therapist will help the individual to develop more realistic and positive thoughts, which can lead to a reduction in anxiety symptoms.
In DBT, individuals work with a therapist to learn skills to manage emotions, reduce stress and improve relationships. This includes teaching specific skills like mindfulness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance that can help individuals to better cope with anxious feelings.
Treatment and therapies for anxiety can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the individual’s needs. Common treatments include:
● Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors.
● Exposure therapy helps individuals confront their fears in a safe environment.
● Medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines, can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
● Other therapies, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga, and relaxation techniques, can also be beneficial in managing anxiety.
Additionally, lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep, can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Various Forms of CBT
When looking into treatment for any mental health disorder, including anxiety, it is important to seek out treatment that is evidence-based. This means that you follow a practice that has been scientifically supported to treat that disorder.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a gold-standard, evidence-based treatment for anxiety. CBT helps individuals face anxiety by guiding them to change their thoughts and behaviors. Through identifying and changing negative or unhelpful beliefs and behavior patterns, one can move towards living a life based on their values, as opposed to their fears.
There are many forms of CBT that have been proven to help treat anxiety disorders, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and exposure and response prevention (ERP). ERP is a behavioral therapy aimed to gradually expose one to their fear without avoiding or giving in to neutralizing or safe behaviors/compulsions. ERP is especially helpful for obsessive and compulsive behaviors as well as phobias or general fears.
In DBT, the term “dialectical” highlights the need for both acceptance and change in therapy. DBT is designed to teach skills for managing painful and often intense emotions. DBT is typically provided within a structured program and is most often utilized by individuals experiencing extremely intense emotions.
ACT is an action-oriented therapy that utilizes mindfulness and acceptance to help individuals behave more in line with their values. The goal of ACT is to increase “psychological flexibility,” where one is aware of, and non-judgmentally accepts thoughts, sensations, and emotions that show up. By doing so, they are able to remain in contact with the present moment.
Psychotherapy and Art Therapy
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States. It can be a complex mental health issue with various causes, such as major life events, trauma, work, school, and other stressors. The good news is there are many treatment options available for anxiety, including psychotherapy and medication.
Commonly used psychotherapy modalities for anxiety include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), Internal Family Systems (IFS), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Exposure Therapy, and even Art Therapy. If a client finds psychotherapy is not enough, they could benefit from meeting with a psychiatrist or their primary care physician to discuss medication in addition to therapy to help alleviate anxiety symptoms.
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