If you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, it can be disconcerting and feel somewhat hopeless. Stress causes anxiety, and anxiety makes you stress—and the symptoms of anxiety cause to worry, which starts the whole cycle all over again. It’s like a snowball, building up and feeding off of itself, growing bigger by the day. If you don’t nip it in the bud, anxiety can grow to be such a big problem that it causes other issues and becomes debilitating.
But the good news is, there is hope. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States today, affecting as many as 1 in 4 adults. With that high a number of the population affected, anxiety as a disorder simply cannot be ignored. The studies of the disorder and the options for treatment are increasing at a steady rate.
Anxiety is treated with a few different medications depending on the type of anxiety disorder diagnosed. Usually, several of the mental and physical symptoms can be controlled or reduced by using an antidepressant, a beta-blocker, a tricyclic, or a benzodiazepine. While antidepressants were designed to specifically treat depression, they still help with the symptoms and have fewer side effects than older antidepressants. Antihistamines and beta-blockers can treat mild cases of anxiety and are usually only taken as needed, while antidepressants and tricyclics must be taken daily as directed by your healthcare provider.
Medication is often prescribed in combination with other therapies, especially counseling and psychotherapy, and the combination can be beneficial for most types of anxiety disorders.
There are a few different types of therapy available for anxiety—not just regular counseling sessions. It’s probably best to find a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders, and together you can find which type of therapy would work best for you.
Psychotherapy can be administered with or without medication and is often highly successful at relieving or eliminating the symptoms of anxiety. Psychotherapy involves talking with a professional who is experienced with anxiety to explore the possible causes and ways to manage and cope with the disorder. Sometimes group therapy may be prescribed as well.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a specialized type of psychotherapy that contains two main elements. The first part focuses on the brain, working toward changing anxiety-related thoughts. The second part targets the person’s reactions, training the person to respond differently to situations, objects, or events that trigger anxiety. CBT encourages anxiety sufferers to face their fears and train their brains to become desensitized to them, thus eliminating the anxiety-inducing scenarios.
Biofeedback involves a series of therapy sessions in which a person watches his or her brain wave patterns with an electroencephalograph to determine what it feels like during anxiety-causing situations. The person then is gradually taught to control their anxiety while watching the brain wave patterns so that they can eventually learn to relax on cue—on their own, without the help of the therapist or the tools. This mode of therapy can work in as few as 12 sessions and has been highly successful thus far.
Taking care of yourself while treating anxiety is one of the most important things you can do. When you’re alone with your thoughts, you are responsible for how they affect you. Practice trying to replace negative thoughts with positive ones—and at the very least, recognize that it’s the anxiety speaking in your head and not the real you. Once you acknowledge that, it’s easier to let certain thoughts go. Besides that, here are a few things you can do to help:
- Practice deep breathing, yoga, relaxing visualizations, or meditation techniques.
- Exercise—any kind. Do what makes you happy.
- Take a relaxing bath, and try adding lavender essential oil or salts.
- Envision yourself fighting a fear and winning. This helps to make it happen.
- Talk with a supportive friend or family member. You probably know someone who has been through what you’re going through.
- Minimize stress in your daily schedule by making a plan and setting deadlines so that you have a roadmap to follow.
- Add lavender oil to your pillow to relax you and lull you to sleep at night.
- Drink chamomile tea, eat healthily, and avoid caffeine/alcohol.
With the amount of stress that the majority of the global population experiences today, most—if not all—of these options would be beneficial for just about anyone. If you haven’t experienced anxiety, count yourself lucky—and consider these self-care options preventative measures. Besides, who doesn’t feel better after some exercise, deep breathing, or a hot bath?
Anxiety treatments vary with each case, but most cases will most likely benefit from a combination of several therapies and lifestyle modifications. Regardless of the therapies you are prescribed, if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, just know that there are others who have been there before and who have come out on the other side of it. Stay patient and perseverant, and you will be feeling better before you know it. Recognizing your situation and taking steps toward improving your life is the best place to start.