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Treating Anxiety

Treatment for anxiety is effective. The most common treatment option is psychotherapy (talk therapy). In some cases, medication or a combination of psychotherapy and medication is appropriate. Following an initial assessment, your provider can help determine the most appropriate treatment for you.

Guide to anxiety treatment options

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” involves working with a trained professional to gain new skills, insight, and support to overcome anxiety and other mental health conditions. There are different types of anxiety counseling and therapy, including general psychotherapy or counseling and specific evidence-based psychotherapies (EBPs) that help change thoughts, behaviors, and/or patterns of social interaction. This is not a complete list of psychotherapeutic approaches but includes some of the most common and effective psychological treatments.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on the link between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. CBT helps individuals learn new ways of thinking and reacting to situations so that they have more balanced and helpful thoughts about themselves, others and the future. It also involves teaching new skills for getting more pleasure and meaning out of life. It can also help people confront their fears and engage in activities they have been avoiding.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) helps people get “unstuck” from and detach from their thoughts. It also focuses on taking positive actions and helping people make choices that align with their values. It uses strategies such as mindfulness and goal setting to help people recognize and achieve what truly matters to them in life.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure Therapy is a CBT method used to treat anxiety. It focuses on confronting the fears underlying an anxiety disorder to help people engage in activities they have been avoiding. Exposure therapy is sometimes used along with relaxation exercises.

Specialized Trauma-Focused Treatments for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Specialized Trauma-Focused Treatments for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) include prolonged exposure (PE), which helps to address traumatic memories, feelings and situations to decrease PTSD symptoms; cognitive processing therapy (CPT), which helps identify how traumatic events influence thoughts and develop more healthy thought patterns; and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which helps process trauma by using a back-and-forth movement or sound while recalling distressing experiences.

General Psychotherapy

General Psychotherapy involves working with a trained professional in a supportive relationship. The focus of treatment is usually non-specific and addresses general problems or challenges and lifestyle goals.

Medication

Psychotherapy is recommended as the first-line treatment for anxiety. However, some individuals may benefit from medication as well. Antidepressants like serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and anti-anxiety medications like buspirone can be used to treat anxiety conditions. They impact serotonin, a brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) thought to be closely connected to mood and feelings of calm and emotional stability. 

These types of medications are usually taken daily over longer periods, but other medications are sometimes prescribed for immediate, short-term relief of anxiety symptoms, including those experienced during a panic attack. These medications include beta blockers, such as propranolol, and sedative medications, known as benzodiazepines, which have a number of possible drawbacks, including potential for misuse. They also do not treat the underlying causes of anxiety the way psychotherapy does.

Lifestyle changes

Anxiety is a medical condition that benefits from professional treatment like psychotherapy and medication. However, some people find their symptoms improve by making changes alongside professional treatment. Some examples include exercising, improving sleep, getting adequate nutrition, and effectively managing stress.

Resources for anxiety counseling and therapy

Resources for anxiety counseling and therapy

Read about anxiety types, crisis hotlines and mental health organizations.

Read about anxiety types, crisis hotlines and mental health organizations.