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Anxiety – What It is and How to Deal It

Anxiety is a normal response to stress that everyone experiences during traumatic life events or particularly worrisome times. Most people overcome these normal levels of anxiety when the situation passes. When the anxiety becomes pervasive, though, individuals often need the help of therapists that can provide effective treatments to help them reduce their levels of anxiety and learn to cope with situations that make them particularly anxious.

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are many different types of therapies that are used to treat anxiety disorders. Counselors often prefer certain therapies to treat specific forms of anxiety. Some of the most common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and phobias.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to treat many anxiety disorders. The specific approaches that a therapist chooses to use, though, will often differ depending on the patient’s particular concerns.

One of the most commonly used CBT techniques is in vivo exposure. This therapy is often useful at treating all types of anxiety. Exposure therapy urges patients to overcome their fears by exposing them to the very things that produce anxiety. This technique assumes that most fears are learned behaviors. Therapists therefore help patients unlearn the behavior by exposing them to increasingly extreme stimuli to show them that the fear is unfounded.

If someone, for instance, has arachnophobia, then the therapist might ask them to look at pictures of spiders. Once the patient is comfortable with this, then they will touch the picture. Later, they might visit a zoo to view spiders in a cage. Finally, the patient will experience the presence of an actual spider. The cumulative exposure allows the patient to cope with negative feelings and eventually overcome the unwanted response.

Drug Therapy for Anxiety Disorders

Some patients with anxiety disorders respond well to drug therapy. The most common medications prescribed to those with GAD, OCD, PTSD, and similar disorders are antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and buspirone.

Buspirone is the most common drug therapy for long-term treatment of anxiety because it is not addictive and does not cause sedation. While it does not completely eliminate anxiety, it does lessen the intensity of symptoms.

Benzodiazepines such as lorazepam and valium are most often used when treating short-term anxiety. Some patients develop addictions to these drugs quickly, so long-term treatment is not advisable. These drugs, however, offer relief from symptoms much more thoroughly and quickly than other medications.

Antidepressants are often used to treat patients with both anxiety and depression, which is common. Antidepressants usually take several weeks before they produce noticeable effects, so therapists might choose to prescribe other medications for short-term anxiety management while the patient waits for the long-term treatment to reduce their symptoms.

Treating Anxiety with Therapy Combinations

Many therapists have found that using a combination of therapies produces the best results for their patients. Those receiving treatment for anxiety can therefore expect their therapist to use a variety of approaches that might include drug therapy, CBT, and other psychotherapeutic approaches.