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People who have anxiety disorders experience distress that’s so acute or exaggerated they worry all the time, even when there’s no obvious cause for concern. You may want to consider therapy if you’re having trouble managing your anxiety on your own.
Therapy can help you with any anxiety, but it’s particularly important if you have an anxiety disorder. This disorder is characterized by a significant level of distress that shows no sign of improvement and affects how you function on a daily basis. Signs of anxiety disorder include:
Therapy for anxiety involves working with a mental health professional to change the thought patterns causing your anxiety. You learn strategies to reshape your thinking so your anxiety doesn’t interfere with your job, school, and social life.
The most common treatment for anxiety is psychotherapy, which can include therapeutic approaches such as cognitive behavioral, exposure, and acceptance and commitment therapies. Therapy is usually done one-on-one with a health care professional, although group therapy may be appropriate in some cases. Prescription medications may be prescribed. While anxiety therapy usually leads to the best outcomes, self-care such as exercise and meditation can help reduce stress outside of therapy sessions.
Therapy is most successful when it’s collaborative, so take time to find a therapist who you trust and is qualified to help meet your therapy goals. You may want to speak with several anxiety therapists near you to find one who’s the best fit for your needs.
Therapy involves discussing your fears and worries, so you need to feel safe opening up about these subjects including how your anxiety affects your day to day life. This may mean finding a therapist with whom you have a rapport. If you feel more at ease with a therapist of a similar age, gender, sexuality, or faith, you can take this into consideration. However, these factors don’t affect a therapist’s skills or experience, so you may not want to rule someone out for these reasons.
When looking for a mental health professional to help with anxiety therapy, ask about their training, credentials, and licensing. You should check how long they’ve been practicing, and the type of experience they’ve had. Some may specialize in certain anxiety disorders. It’s important to know if they can prescribe medications in addition to providing therapy services. This is only something that a licensed psychiatrist can provide who holds a medical degree. If your therapist does not have a medical degree, they can make recommendations to explore the potential for medication with your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist.
Finally, be sure to get a sense of the treatment plan recommended by an anxiety therapist ahead of time, including frequency and duration of sessions, and cost. If the therapist doesn’t accept your insurance plan, ask if they offer a payment plan option or a sliding scale fee schedule. You’ll want to ensure that the cost of therapy fits in your budget.
Anxiety can be a normal reaction to stress, but when it’s severe and persistent, it interferes with daily life. Patients often seek help from therapists for managing anxiety disorders such as:
To make the most of your first therapy session, take time to think about your situation so you can give your anxiety therapist as much information as possible to develop a treatment plan. Make notes so that you won’t forget details to bring up in your session. Here are some key points to consider:
Include any questions you have about how therapy works and your therapist’s approach.
Perhaps the most important way to prepare yourself is to be open and honest. It may be uncomfortable, but the more forthright you are, the better your anxiety therapist can help.
The most common treatments for anxiety are psychotherapy — known as talk therapy — and medication. Here are different types of anxiety therapy treatments:
Cognitive behavioral therapy
The most widely-used treatment for anxiety, CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on the thought patterns that cause anxiety. It’s based on the theory that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all interconnected. Inaccurate thinking, such as jumping to conclusions, can lead to fear and anxiety. By understanding and challenging this distorted thinking, you can change how you think and feel.
Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy most often used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias. Many people whose anxieties stem from fears tend to avoid situations that can make them worse. Exposure therapy aims to reduce fear by having you confront the frightening situation. Over time, you become less sensitive and fearful.
Acceptance and commitment therapy
ACT focuses on changing how you relate to your thoughts and feelings through mindfulness and acceptance. You can then look at your anxiety differently and learn skills to change your behavior according to your values and how you want to live your life.
Medication can ease some of the symptoms of anxiety. It doesn’t resolve all symptoms, so it’s usually used in conjunction with psychotherapy. Your health care provider can recommend anxiety medications based on factors such as your medical history, health, possible side effects, and cost. You may need to try several different medications to find one that works best for you.
Commonly prescribed anxiety medications include antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, and beta blockers.
While therapy and medication are the main forms of treatment for anxiety, self-care can help reduce your overall stress and enhance your well-being.
For additional information about anxiety therapy, check out the sources we used in this guide.