What are the Best Therapies to Help Overcome Anxiety

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anxiety

Anxiety is a highly debilitating and common problem. It is estimated that 18 percent of adults and 25 percent of adolescents suffer from an anxiety disorder (link to proof from Apa or Jama etc), making it the most diagnosed psychological problem in the United States. Whether it is generalized anxiety, social anxiety, or a panic disorder it is likely to cause a fair amount of physical, mental or emotional disruption in your life. Luckily, anxiety issues are treatable and manageable with a variety of techniques and therapies. Here are the best treatments to help alleviate your anxiety and help you get on with your life. get rid of anxiety. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is by far the most studied type of psychotherapy for treating anxiety. As its name suggests, the focus is on changing maladaptive thoughts and instituting behaviors to help reduce anxiety symptoms. It has been consistently proven to reduce the symptoms of anxiety

As part of CBT, you are likely to undergo cognitive restructuring as well as exposure and relaxation exercises.

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Cognitive Restructuring

Put simply, CBT posits that distortions in thinking lead people to feel and maintain anxious feelings. The goal of the therapist is to help clients think more realistically which will lead to less anxiety.

Exposure

Exposure is sometimes performed as a separate therapy but it is often subsumed under CBT. Exposure is the process of confronting anxiety-provoking situations in order to reduce anxiety. By confronting, rather than avoiding, the client learns that the situation is not as frightening as it may have initially appeared. 

Relaxation

Like exposure, relaxation can be done separately from CBT but it is often used as a behavioral method. Relaxation is the opposite of anxiety. If you can perform exercises to help you relax (e.g., deep breathing) then your anxiety will be significantly reduced. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is a more recent but rapidly growing psychotherapy. It is similar to CBT in that the focus is on thoughts and behaviors that maintain anxiety but the approach is different. The goals are acceptance of unwanted thoughts and a commitment to life values. 

Acceptance of Unwanted Thoughts

In ACT, the goal is to accept, rather than change, anxiety-provoking thoughts. Once you accept them, you can in a sense “let them go” so they will not cause further anxiety. There is recognition that a thought does not have to lead to distressing feelings unless we give it that power. This process is known as cognitive defusion. 

Mindfulness

One of the main components of ACT is the use of mindfulness. Mindfulness allows one to consider thoughts in the present moment without judgment, thus making it a perfect tool to help achieve a level of acceptance. 

Commitment to Value Increasing Behavior

The goal here is to take action to meet your values, not just to overcome anxiety. Although you may institute some of the same behaviors as in CBT (such as exposure), you perform them in pursuit of life satisfaction rather than symptom reduction. 

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Medication

Although it is desirable to try psychotherapy first, there is no denying that medication can works well for many people and has a very high success rate. Of course, medications often have side effects and only work while you take them. If you want long-lasting effects, using medication with psychotherapy is advised.(source) Make sure to find with a licensed psychiatrist to determine with medication and dosage works best for you. 

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs (e.g., Lexapro, Paxil) are the most often prescribed medications for anxiety and depression. They take a few weeks to work at an optimal level but have been found helpful in the treatment of multiple anxiety disorders with relatively few side effects.

Benzodiazepines 

Benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax, Valium) work well and quickly. Unfortunately, they are highly habit-forming and should be prescribed sparingly. They also cause acute drowsiness and have serious withdrawal effects. 

These evidence based methods of therapy have the potential to greatly improve your quality of life and help mitigate your anxious thoughts. Working with licensed mental health professional will partner with you to help you achieve your goals of overcoming anxiety. 

MS Broudy is a psychologist, writer, and consultant. He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and a master’s degree in Social Psychology. He has spent over 20 years providing therapy and assessment services for a diverse set of clients. MS specializes in writing about mental health, parenting, and wellness. He has his own blog, mentalspokes.com, where he writes about psychological issues.