In the United States alone, around 40 million people have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Sadly, of those people, less than 40 percent receive the treatment they need. This is despite the fact that anxiety disorders are highly treatable, with a variety of therapies available for those with these conditions.
If you happen to be one of those suffering from this condition, you may be wondering where and how to get anxiety treatment. Read on to find out.
What anxiety disorders can be treated?
Anxiety disorders come in different forms:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder is when you have persistent feelings of worry about different things like finances or health. You may also have a general feeling that something bad is about to happen to you. Because of these constant worries, you may feel on edge nearly all the time. You may also have trouble sleeping and easily feel irritable.
- Social Anxiety Disorder is being fearful of social situations, like parties, meetings, or family reunions. Particularly, you would have this feeling that other people are judging you. Because of that, you generally feel shaky, sweaty, or nauseated in social situations.
- Phobias are intense fears about certain things, places, or events. When you are exposed to these, you always feel distressed.
- Panic disorder is characterized by frequent panic attacks, whose symptoms include trembling, shortness of breath, sweating, a feeling of choking, and a rapid heart rate.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder gives you uncontrollable feelings and thoughts to do certain routines. One example is compulsive hand washing because of a fear of germs. The compulsions usually interfere with your normal functioning, as they take up too much of your time.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder often manifests after a particularly stressful event, like a serious accident, a natural disaster, or witnessing the death of a loved one. You may get frequent flashbacks of the traumatic event, nightmares, and fearful thoughts, which may prevent you from functioning properly. These can persist even years after the traumatic event has passed.
Who provides anxiety treatments?
These kinds of treatments are given by trained psychologists, counsellors, and other mental health professionals. If your case requires medications, you will be referred to a psychiatrist who will give you prescriptions.
Anxiety treatments are often performed in rehab centers. They can also be given in your therapist’s clinic if he has a private practice.
How can I get treatment?
The first step is to talk to your primary care doctor or a mental health professional. Tell him about your symptoms, what you feel, and how these affect your daily life. He can then make a proper diagnosis of your condition and recommend the best treatments that will fit your needs.
Afterwards, you can go through the therapies recommended for you.
What kinds of anxiety treatments are there?
Mainly, there are two kinds of treatments for this condition: psychotherapies and medications. The former aims to address the mental and emotional components of anxiety, while the latter addresses its biological components.
While anxiety disorders mostly affect your mind, they also have a biological basis. In your brain, molecules called neurotransmitters exist to help brain cells communicate with each other. There are several neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and others. Some of them are involved in regulating your mood and emotions.
In a healthy brain, these neurotransmitters are well-balanced, producing calm moods and emotional states. But when you have an anxiety disorder, some of these neurotransmitters are thrown off balance. If there are excess levels of some neurotransmitters and too little of others, you can experience the symptoms of anxiety.
The purpose of medications is to help the brain regain the proper balance of these neurotransmitters. Anxiety medicines are prescription drugs, so you can only buy them with your doctor’s orders. Here are some examples of anxiety medications:
- Buspirone (Buspar)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Paroxetine (Pexeva, Paxil)
- Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
Some of these, such as SSRIs and SNRIs, are primarily used for treating depression. However, they also help with relieving anxiety disorders, so some doctors may prescribe them for these conditions.
Others, especially benzodiazepines, may contain FDA black box warnings because of potentially dangerous side effects. They should only be taken under the supervision of a medical professional.
In any case, if you are prescribed any of these medications and you experience adverse effects, inform your doctor immediately. Do not adjust your dose or stop taking the medicines by yourself, as there may be withdrawal symptoms or additional adverse effects.
Psychotherapies deal with the mental and emotional components of anxiety disorders. They may be either individual or group therapies.
In individual therapy, you and a therapist talk one-on-one about your symptoms, your thoughts and feelings, and how anxiety affects your life. On the other hand, in group therapy, one therapist talks to many people suffering from anxiety. The advantage of group therapy is it also functions as a support network, making you feel you’re not alone in your battles.
In psychotherapy, you will play an active role in overcoming your anxiety disorder. Your therapist will teach you skills to cope with triggering situations, which you can apply outside of therapy sessions. Psychotherapy is a guided journey, and your therapist will not force you into a situation if he thinks you are not ready for it yet.
One common psychotherapy used for anxiety disorders is CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. In CBT, your therapist will teach you essential skills and coping mechanisms to overcome any event that triggers your anxiety. The more you apply these new skills, the less fearful you will be of those events.
It may take several months of psychotherapy for your anxiety symptoms to improve. But in some cases, patients have reported improvement after only a few sessions of psychotherapy.