It’s a common misconception that “therapy is therapy” or that all therapy is the same. You walk in, talk about your week for 50 minutes, and then leave, right? Actually, that’s not the case at all.
There are many different therapies out there, some highly distinct or unique from others. This is true both for therapy as a whole and therapy meant to treat symptoms of anxiety.
Seeing as we all have individual anxiety triggers, there are various possible contributing factors for the development of anxiety disorders, we all have unique temperaments, and, of course, there are many anxiety diagnoses, all of which differ – this makes perfect sense.
Additionally, some people prefer short-term or time-limited treatments, whereas others prefer to be in therapy for longer.
Sometimes, we wonder how to get rid of anxiety to no avail; breathing exercises and self-help may not be enough, or we might not know the best course of treatment. Still, if left untreated, anxiety can impact your ability to enjoy life and engage in commitments.
So, what are some of the most effective ways to treat anxiety?
Best Ways to Treat Anxiety
Almost all therapies have specific techniques for anxiety. Here is how they work.
1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is known as the golden standard for multiple mental health conditions, and it’s often the first line of treatment for disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Largely, CBT focuses on noticing thought patterns, challenging thoughts that may be maladaptive, discovering helpful coping tools, and making your thought processes more supportive and adaptive to your mental health.
It’s a flexible and non-invasive form of treatment with techniques many people can benefit from. The fact that it’s easy to access and can lead to symptom improvement in as little as 6 weeks is part of why many people try CBT first. CBT may be used with other modalities or on its own.
2. Exposure therapy
Exposure therapy is a form of therapy that introduces clients to their fear, whether through imagination, virtually, or in real life.
When repeatedly exposed to fear, many people find that their anxiety symptoms decrease over time. They can better withstand anxiety symptoms, have a more realistic view of their fears, and use coping skills to help manage the anxiety. Exposure therapy helps for social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and other mental health conditions, like obsessive-compulsive disorder.
3. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavioral therapy focuses on mindfulness, stress tolerance, and emotional regulation. In DBT, you learn to acknowledge feelings and circumstances without judgment and gain real skills to help cope or address symptoms in a healthy, validating, and effective way. When treating anxiety, DBT can be extremely helpful for:
- Finding skills to use during an anxiety attack.
- Tolerating and addressing distress or feelings of anxiety.
- Improving reactions: Since irritability is a common anxiety symptom, one might find the skills needed to step back, get in touch with what’s going on inside, and take healthy steps to address how they feel.
- Executing thought reframe.
As with many other forms of treatment on this list, DBT can take the form of group therapy or one-on-one sessions.
4. Psychoanalytic therapy
Some forms of therapy primarily focus on the here and now; they concentrate specifically on symptom reduction in tools to use but don’t always talk about what led up to symptoms or contributed to them. Psychoanalytic therapy places more emphasis on gaining insight into past experiences and inner workings.
In psychoanalytic therapy, you and your therapist work together to reveal experiences and unconscious thought processes that may be contributing to your anxiety. Then, you work to address and change your symptoms and responses with this insight in mind.
5. Interpersonal therapy
Interpersonal therapy looks at your daily life and allows you to understand how it impacts your symptoms. Interpersonal therapy is generally time-limited, taking 12–16 weeks for the entire course of treatment, split into three parts.
In interpersonal therapy, you will first complete something called an intrapersonal inventory. It will help you look at the relationships in your life, areas of life that may cause distress, triggers, and so on. Then, you will work to find solutions with the help of your therapist. After that, you will process your successes in treatment, look at where you’re at or what has changed, and address anything else as needed. By the end, the hope is that there will be symptom reduction and that the client will feel empowered to help themselves with symptom management.
This form of therapy was first developed with depression in mind, but it is now used for anxiety, eating disorders, and more.
6. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
ACT or acceptance commitment therapy is a well-known and valuable treatment for many mental health concerns, which aren’t limited to but include anxiety and depressive disorders. As for how it works, the name is somewhat self-explanatory. In ACT, you:
- Accept what you can’t control or change (IE, “I can’t control what my sister says”)
- Commit to your values (IE, “while I can’t change that, I can set boundaries and set myself up for success by using self-care today”)
- Transform your thinking with the help of your therapist to be present, open, and flexible. T in ACT stands for therapy itself.
7. Online therapy
Online therapy is not different from other therapies in this list. Rather than being a distinct form of treatment, online counseling is a way to get the same quality care as you would face-to-face at home. Online therapy and online counseling look a lot like in-person therapy or counseling, but sessions take place remotely instead of in an office. Online therapy allows you to get quality therapy that is both comfortable and financially accessible. Research shows that various forms of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR, are just as effective when engaged online. For some people, online therapy is even a preference.
If you’re interested in the mind-body connection, this treatment might spark your interest.
Biofeedback or applied psychophysiological feedback is a form of treatment that allows you to learn to regulate your nervous system.
During treatment, sensors are attached to your skin while viewing a monitor. On the monitor, you’ll see a live chart of physical functions like your heart rate and the rate of your breathing.
As you watch the chart, you can try different techniques, like breathing exercises or affirmations, and watch how it impacts these physical functions. That way, you gain a deeper understanding of your mind-body connection and learn what works to alleviate your anxiety symptoms.
Biofeedback can help treat both physical and mental health conditions. It can be useful not just for anxiety but also for asthma, pain, PTSD, IBS, and more.
9. Eye movement desensitization resolution (EMDR)
Although many conversations surrounding EMDR focus on trauma or trauma therapy, this form of therapy also helps for anxiety disorders. As the name suggests, it is there to desensitize you from distressing thoughts and memories.
This doesn’t mean that you will lose emotional sensitivity at all; instead, it means that you will have better symptom management and will be able to better manage triggers if treatment is successful.
In EMDR therapy, you think of the aforementioned distressing thoughts, beliefs, or memories while focusing on stimuli that facilitate rapid eye movement. This may mean that a therapist moves two fingers while you recall the thought or memory, or it could be virtual stimuli.
EMDR has 8 stages, and your therapist will be there to support you throughout the process. When your treatment nears the end, like in many forms of therapy, you will reassess where you’re at with your therapist to see your successes and decide how you want to progress, if applicable.
Although it varies from person to person, medication is sometimes necessary to put symptoms of anxiety under control. Various medication options, such as SSRIs, buspirone, and SNRIs, can be used for anxiety disorders. Medication for anxiety is generally most effective when used alongside anxiety therapy.
Which Anxiety Treatment Should You Choose?
Are you wondering how to get rid of anxiety? Or how to better manage it so that symptoms no longer rule your life? If any of the ways to treat anxiety on this list stand out to you, you may be able to search for a provider in your area who conducts the specific modality or find an online therapist who provides that form of therapy. A therapist will help determine the best treatment for you.
Remember that healing and symptom improvement is often a process and that you can use a combination of different treatments if desired.
Anxiety disorders can range in severity, and sometimes, a person will have more than one diagnosis or life concern to address in therapy. These are all things that may influence your treatment plan.
You Can Overcome Your Anxiety With Treatment
With so many different possible treatments for anxiety, know that there is hope. Even if you have tried various treatments before, the best anxiety treatment for you might be right around the corner.
Many people don’t reach out for anxiety therapy or treatment, but extensive research shows that it leads to improvement, so it can make a world of difference to take the leap.
What if you don’t know where to find quality care? Alternatively, what if you feel as though you’re too busy, don’t have time for anxiety therapy, or are having trouble finding care that you can afford? Online therapy through DoMental is an inexpensive option to help you connect with a provider much faster. You can pay as low as $29/session, which is more affordable than some insurance copays.
Sign up and start your journey now, or learn more about DoMental here.