Without help, anxiety disorders can be crippling, but anxiety disorder treatments are available and effective. The vast majority of people who get treatment for an anxiety disorder achieve relief from their symptoms of severe anxiety over time.
Like most mental illnesses, anxiety disorders are most successfully treated with a combination of approaches. Most commonly, anxiety disorder therapy and medication along with lifestyle changes are used together for the best anxiety disorder treatment. (read: Does an Anxiety Disorder Cure Exist?) Other specialists, like dieticians, may also be involved.
Medical Anxiety Disorder Treatments
The cause of an anxiety disorder may be an underlying medical condition and so treating the anxiety disorder also involves treating the underlying illness. Anxiety disorders can be a symptom of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems or asthma.
In fact, when a doctor decides how to treat an anxiety disorder, he must consider the prospect of tens of other possible causational or co-existing conditions as well. Many of these conditions are psychiatric, as anxiety disorders commonly occur alongside illnesses like substance abuse, depression and eating disorders. Any of these additional illnesses must also be treated to get relief from the symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
If a doctor determines the anxiety disorder requires treatment, a medication may be prescribed. Medications frequently used include:
- Antidepressants – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common anxiety medications. SSRIs include medications like fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil). Other types of antidepressants like tricyclics, may also be prescribed to treat anxiety.
- Buspirone (Buspar) – a unique anti-anxiety medication. Like the above antidepressants, this medication is taken long-term.
- Benzodiazepines – sometimes called tranquilizers, these medications are often prescribed for short-term anxiety disorder treatment. Benzodiazepines include medications like alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan). Long-term use of these medications can cause problems with drug tolerance and dependence.
Anxiety Disorder Therapy
Several types of anxiety disorder therapy are popular. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common and has been scientifically shown effective in treating anxiety disorders. A computerized CBT anxiety disorder treatment, FearFighter, has even been recommended in the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines in the treatment of panic and phobias.
Psychodynamic therapy, often known as talk therapy, is rarely used alone as an anxiety disorder treatment. Instead, psychodynamic therapy is often used in cases where the anxiety disorder occurs with other disorders such as personality disorders.
Alternative and Lifestyle Anxiety Disorder Treatments
Lifestyle changes can be an important part of anxiety disorder treatment and ignoring lifestyle factors can unravel the benefits other treatments have to offer. Lifestyle elements that aid in the treatment of anxiety disorders include:
- Exercise – daily exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Diet – avoiding high-fat, high-sugar foods may help decrease anxiety. Increasing the intake of foods including omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts and flax seeds, can also be beneficial.
- Drugs – alcohol and non-prescribed drugs, even those over-the-counter, may worsen anxiety. This includes cigarettes and caffeine.
- Relaxation – formal relaxation techniques, meditation or yoga may help decrease anxiety.
- Sleep – creating, and sticking to, a sleep schedule and making sleep a priority can also help.
Alternative anxiety disorder treatments are also available but little is known about how well they work or the possible side effects. The herb kava is sometimes taken for relaxation while the herb valerian is taken as a sleep aid. Some B vitamin supplements are also thought to help in treating anxiety disorders.