The best forms of therapy to treat anxiety (2023)

In some cases, medications play a role in treatinganxiety disorders. But for many, therapy, alone or in combination with medication, is the most effective treatment option. The reason is that therapy, unlike medication, gives you the tools to manage anxiety yourself, now and in the future.

Different therapeutic techniques have been developed to treat anxiety and have evolved over time, from psychoanalytic approaches to more recent cognitive-behavioral therapies.

Understanding anxiety disorders

About 19% of American adults and 31% of teens ages 13 to 18 experience anxiety each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).Several major types of anxiety disorders can be treated by therapeutic approaches, including:

  • Panic SyndromeIt is a condition characterized by sudden and frequent panic attacks.
  • TOC(OCD) involves obsessions and compulsions that create distress and interfere with daily life.
  • phobiasThey are irrational fears of a situation or object.
  • generalized anxiety disorder(TAG) is marked by constant worry and anxiety about a wide variety of concerns in the absence of a specific threat.
  • social anxiety disorder(SAD) involves an irrational fear of being watched, judged, or embarrassed that causes severe anxiety in social situations.
  • post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) involves anxiety symptoms following a traumatic experience.

Regardless of the specific disorder, the underlying processes that drive them often follow a similar pattern. People with anxiety tend to react to unpleasant thoughts, feelings and situations in more extreme ways and may try to control these reactions.avoid triggers. Unfortunately, this type of avoidance only serves to reinforce fears and concerns.

Most modern therapies address negative thinking and avoidance to help you manage your anxiety.

Types of Anxiety Therapy

The goal of all therapeutic approaches is to help you understand why you feel the way you do, what your triggers are, and how you can change your reaction to them. Some types of therapy even teach practical techniques to help you reframe your negative thoughts and change your behaviors.

Anxiety disorders differ considerably, so therapy is tailored to your specific symptoms and diagnoses. It can be done individually, as a family, as a couple or in a group. How often you see your therapist and for how long will depend on your specific symptoms and diagnoses.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals use various types of anxiety therapy. The choice of therapy also depends on your diagnosis and the severity of your symptoms.

cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)It is the most widely used therapy for anxiety disorders. Research has found it to be effective in treatingSAD, GAD, phobias and panic disorders, among other conditions.

The premise of CBT is that your thoughts, not your current situation, affect how you feel and subsequently behave. Therefore, the purpose of CBT is to identify and understand your negative thoughts and ineffective behavior patterns and replace them with more realistic thoughts, effective actions and coping mechanisms.

During this process, your therapist acts as a coach and teaches you helpful strategies. For example, you might think a lot about "black and white" where you assume things are good or bad. Instead, I would replace those thoughts with the more realistic realization that there are many shades of gray in between.

It takes practice to use these strategies. Once you begin to recognize your anxiety and its triggers, you can learn to apply the coping skills learned in CBT to manage your fear, panic, and worry.

exposure therapy

exposure therapyit is one of the most common CBT methods used to treat a variety of anxiety disorders, including specific phobias, SAD, and PTSD. The basic premise behind exposure therapy is that if you're afraid of something, the best way to conquer it is head-on.

During exposure therapy, your therapist will slowly introduce you to anxiety-producing objects or situations. This is usually done using a technique known as "systematic desensitization", which involves three steps:

  1. To relax: your therapist will teach you relaxation training to help you fight your anxiety. Examples of relaxation training includeprogressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, meditation and guided imagery.
  2. List: Create a list of your anxiety triggers, sorting them by intensity.
  3. expose: In this final step, you will gradually work with the anxiety-provoking objects or situations listed, using relaxation techniques where necessary.

There are several ways your psychologist can expose you to anxiety-provoking stimuli. Here are the most common ones:

  • imaginary exposure: In this type of presentation, you will be asked to vividly imagine the object or situation that causes you anxiety.
  • live exposure: In this method, you will face your anxiety-provoking object or situation in real life. Therefore, with this type of exposure, a person with social anxiety can be instructed to deliver a speech to an audience.
  • virtual reality exhibition: In some cases, virtual reality can be used when live exposure is not possible. Virtual reality therapy uses technology to combine live and imaginal exposure elements. This method has proven especially helpful for soldiers and others with PTSD.

dialectical behavior therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)it is a very effective type of CBT. Originally used to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), DBT is now used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety.

DBT focuses on helping you develop what feels like "dialectical" (opposite) perspective, acceptance, and change. During DBT treatment, you will learn to accept your anxiety while actively working to change it. It's similar to the notion of loving yourself the way you are while trying to change yourself for the better.

DBT treatment teaches four powerful skills:

  • conscience: Connect with the present moment and notice fleeting thoughts (such as anxiety) without being overwhelmed by them
  • Distress Tolerance: Manage your anxiety in a stressful situation
  • interpersonal effectiveness: Learn to say no or ask for what you need
  • emotional regulation: Managing Anxiety Before It Gets Out of Control

Acceptance and commitment therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)is another form of therapy that has been shown to be effective for a variety of anxiety disorders. ACT involves identifying your life values ​​and acting in a way that matches your values.

The ACT has two main components:

  • Accept that thoughts and feelings don't necessarily need to be controlled.
  • Commit to taking actions that help a person live life in accordance with their values.

ACT helps people learn to accept the uncomfortable and anxious feelings they have. Rather than trying to suppress or change these feelings, they learn emotional strategies that help them tolerate the discomfort.

art therapy

art therapyIt is non-verbal, experience-oriented therapy. It involves using visual arts (such as painting, drawing, sculpture) to express and process emotions, or using art to practice mindfulness and relaxation. While it can be provided as a standalone therapy, it is commonly used in combination with other treatment methods such as CBT.

Being a newer form of therapy, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness in reducing anxiety symptoms.

psychoanalytic therapy

According to this Freudian model, anxiety symptoms reflect unconscious conflicts. The aim of psychoanalytic therapy is to resolve them. Inpsychoanalysis, you and your therapist examine your thoughts, fears, and desires to better understand how you see yourself and reduce your anxiety. This is one of the most intensive forms of treatment; it can take years to identify patterns in your thinking.

The terms "psychoanalysis" and "psychodynamic therapy" are often used interchangeably, but psychoanalysis is actually a subset of psychodynamic therapy.

Interpersonal Therapy

interpersonal therapy(IPT) focuses on social roles and relationships. At IPT, you will work with your therapist to identify any interpersonal issues you may be having, such as unresolved grief, conflicts with family or friends, changes in work or social roles, and issues relating to other people. Then you will learn healthy ways to express emotions and ways to improve your communication with others.

Although originally developed to treat major depression, the IPT can be used if your anxiety is primarily related to your relationships with other people, such asSAD.

Which anxiety therapy is best?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a first-line treatment for anxiety. This approach can be very effective in helping people recognize and change negative thoughts that cause anxiety.However, it is important to recognize that each person is unique and may respond differently.

Effectiveness of anxiety therapy

Anxiety is highly treatable. Psychotherapy can be very effective, but medications, lifestyle changes, and relaxation strategies can also help.

A meta-analysis found that several types of therapy were effective in treating anxiety symptoms, including individual and group CBT, mindfulness therapies, and psychodynamic therapy.Online therapy, eye movement desensitization (EMDR) reprocessing, and interpersonal therapy have also shown efficacy.

The study found that the most effective treatment option combines individual CBT with medication.

Studies suggest that online therapy for anxiety appears to be as effective as face-to-face therapy.

What to Expect from Anxiety Therapy

A common misconception about therapy is that you'll start to feel better right away. Sometimes this is the case. But most of the time, you feel worse before you start to feel better. Surprisingly, feeling worse is often a sign of progress. And if you think about it, it makes sense.

When you make the decision to go to therapy, it's often because you haven't been able to overcome your anxiety on your own. Therapy involves exploring your anxiety and the reasons behind it in a deeper and more meaningful way. This can cause a temporary spike in your anxiety.

Therapy should never be seen as a quick fix. It is a unique process for each individual. The type of therapy you need, the skills you learn, and the length of therapy depends entirely on the type of anxiety you have and the severity of your symptoms.

It's important to understand that while the process won't always go smoothly, it will be worth it in the end.

What you should know about a therapeutic treatment plan

How to get the most out of therapy

Trying to make a change can be a challenge. Anxiety therapy is no exception. However, if you are persistent, you will see improvement.

Here are some ways to get the most out of your therapy and see some results:

  • don't pretend to be fine
  • Ask questions
  • Tell your therapist anything and everything
  • Make work out of your sessions
  • Focus on your goals
  • Practice healthy lifestyle choices
  • Make sure you have a social support system.
  • Reduce the stress in your life that makes your anxiety worse.

That way you can see that putting in the effort and being present throughout the therapy process will have the biggest impact on how it works out for you.

The Best Online Anxiety Support Groups of 2021

A Word from Verywell

If you live with anxiety and it's affecting your daily functioning, it's important to seek help from your doctor or mental health professional. If you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, an effective treatment plan can be devised, including one of the therapies listed above, that will help you overcome your symptoms and manage your anxiety.

Finding an Anxiety Therapist

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Errol Quitzon

Last Updated: 04/08/2023

Views: 6393

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Errol Quitzon

Birthday: 1993-04-02

Address: 70604 Haley Lane, Port Weldonside, TN 99233-0942

Phone: +9665282866296

Job: Product Retail Agent

Hobby: Computer programming, Horseback riding, Hooping, Dance, Ice skating, Backpacking, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Errol Quitzon, I am a fair, cute, fancy, clean, attractive, sparkling, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.