The Impact of Therapy on Anxiety Management – What You Need to Know
Cultivating connections with others is important. It can help to reduce loneliness and vulnerability. A strong social support system can also decrease anxiety symptoms.
In a psychodynamic approach, your therapist may identify unconscious conflicts that contribute to anxiety symptoms. Often, these are about self-esteem or relationships. Psychoanalysis is a long-term treatment, and it can be very intense.
Everyone gets a little nervous or worried from time to time, but when these feelings become chronic and interfere with daily life, it might be a sign that you could benefit from anxiety medication.
Your primary care provider can check for any underlying health issues requiring treatment and refer you to a mental health specialist. These specialists include psychiatrists, psychologists, and certain nurse practitioners.
Managing anxiety helps control the symptoms by increasing levels of mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain. Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Valium (diazepam), are the most common medications prescribed to treat panic attacks and severe anxiety episodes. They work quickly, typically reducing anxiety within 30 minutes to an hour.
However, they are physically addictive and should only be used as needed. Other medications, such as SSRIs and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, increase the brain’s production of serotonin and improve communication between nerve cells. These medications may take up to 12 weeks to reach full effect.
Beta-blockers are also often prescribed to reduce the physical symptoms associated with some types of anxiety, such as phobias and social anxiety disorder. They are used to decrease heart rate, blood pressure, and tremors.
Some people may need to take these medications long-term, and you must talk to your healthcare provider about their risks and benefits. You should also be very clear when talking to your provider about the type and severity of your symptoms and any side effects you are experiencing or have experienced in the past.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety disorders. During CBT, a therapist helps a person identify dysfunctional thinking patterns that fuel distressing feelings and unproductive behaviors. The goal is to learn how to change these thoughts and behaviors so they are no longer a source of anxiety.
CBT is also useful in treating other disorders with anxiety as a common symptom, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBT for PTSD involves addressing the trauma-related components that contribute to the anxiety symptoms and reducing fear responses to feared stimuli.
For all anxiety disorders, a therapist will teach coping skills to reduce anxious symptoms. This includes techniques to help you calm down, such as breathing deeply. You may also be taught to stop ruminating and to practice mindfulness. Other coping skills include distraction and projection. Distraction is a way to avoid anxious thoughts and feelings, while projection is redirecting anxiety or other emotions outward toward other people or situations.
In addition, a therapist will encourage you to be more active socially and behaviorally, as avoidance of certain activities or situations can actually increase anxiety levels. Using exposure and behavioral activation exercises can help you overcome your anxiety in the long run. During this time, you will likely experience some initial worsening of your anxiety, but it is important to stick with the therapy.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
Developed by Gerald Klerman and Myrna Weissman, interpersonal therapy is based on attachment and communication theories. This type of therapy focuses on identifying patterns that are contributing to your depression or anxiety. It is also more structured than other types of therapies. This is because it targets specific interpersonal issues and includes worksheets that help you explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
The first phase of IPT involves assessing your mood and gathering information on your current relationships. The therapist will also examine your past relationships to determine the underlying problems. Then, they will collaboratively select one of the following four problem areas as a focus for treatment:
IPT is a time-limited therapy that generally lasts around 12-16 sessions and only focuses on a couple of key issues. This makes it a good choice for people who want to get rid of their depression or anxiety quickly and are willing to work with their therapists to address the underlying causes.
Exposure therapy allows you to face the things that trigger your anxiety slowly and constructively. This can help reduce the severity of your symptoms and the frequency with which they occur and may even lead to a reduction in a phobia or anxiety disorder altogether.
Typically, your therapist will work with you to create a “fear hierarchy” or list your feared objects, activities, and situations. Then, you’ll slowly expose yourself to these, starting with the weakest. This can be done in real life, through imaginal exposure, or virtual reality. You’ll also be taught to use muscle relaxation techniques during the exposure so your fear doesn’t overtake you.
This form of cognitive therapy can be uncomfortable, but it’s important to remember that it’s only temporary. Over time, you’ll see that your fears are less scary than you thought. Eventually, you’ll learn to tolerate the object or situation that makes you anxious, which will stop impacting your daily life.
This is known as extinction, a core part of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy can also involve challenging your negative thoughts and beliefs, such as unhelpful predictions or self-talk. You can then replace these with more realistic and helpful ones. This process can increase your confidence to face and cope with feared situations effectively.