Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling of unease characterized by worry or fear for future events or other circumstances. These reactions could be mild or severe and can be perfectly expected during specific situations, such as sitting for an exam or before a medical check-up. After all, anxiety is our body's way of preparing us to face a threat.
However, some people struggle to control their worries, and anxiety affects all areas of their lives, such as their relationships, sleep habits, work, and a general sense of well-being.
Anxiety disorders are increasingly common nowadays, affecting more than 18% of the world's population. Although these disorders are perfectly treatable with psychotherapy, only 36% of those who suffer from anxiety receive adequate treatment.
In some cases, medication plays an important role in helping clients' central nervous system shift to a calmer state. However, the most effective anxiety treatment includes psychotherapy to help you understand where anxiety comes from and how to deal with it now and in the future.
What Exactly Is an Anxiety Disorder?
Several types of anxiety disorders can be treated in therapy, although not each and every one of them follows the same pattern.
If you suffer from anxiety, you probably react to unpleasant circumstances, feelings, and thoughts in extreme ways, leading you to avoid all triggers that make you experience those undesirable reactions.
However, avoiding these triggers not only doesn’t help but also reinforces those worries and fears that you’re trying so hard to overcome.
Among the different anxiety disorders are:
Panic attacks are experienced as a series of symptoms such as chest pain, choking sensation, fear of dying, or fear of going crazy or losing control. These attacks cause the person to suffer from a terrible dread of recurrence, so they try their best to avoid them.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
The symptoms of this mental disorder vary from person to person. However, in general terms, it is defined as the presence of compulsions or obsessions that interrupt the daily activities of the one suffering from it, generating a lot of distress.
A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear of a situation or object. This extreme reaction makes the person who suffers from it feel irrationally in danger or afraid of being hurt.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
This disorder is widely characterized by excessive worry or anxiety about a wide range of activities, events, or issues. This worry is extremely difficult to control for the sufferer, who experiences irritability, difficulty sleeping, and a feeling of being on edge or restlessness that disrupts the rest of their everyday activities.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
People who suffer from this disorder have a chronic fear of any situation that involves performing in a social setting where they may be embarrassed, rejected, or scrutinized. Before or during such situations, the person develops symptoms such as shortness of breath, excessive sweating, palpitations, and nausea. Although the person is aware that their fear is irrational, they are unable to control their reactions, which leads them to completely avoid such scenarios, affecting their projects, career, and friendships.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
After a traumatic event, some people develop this anxiety disorder that interferes with their ability to function. Severe anxiety leads them to avoid any memories related to the traumatic event, including external reminders such as people, places, conversations, or objects. PTSD leads the person to develop negative beliefs about themselves and the world and to have persistent negative emotions such as fear, guilt, shame, and anger.
What Is Anxiety Therapy All About?
If you suffer from any of these anxiety disorders, psychotherapy can help you overcome your symptoms. Anxiety treatment leads you to understand why you react the way you do, the situations, objects, or places that trigger anxiety, and how you can modify your reactions to them.
Therapy for anxiety disorders offers techniques to change your negative thoughts or beliefs that lead you to engage in harmful behavior detrimental to your overall well-being.
As anxiety disorders differ depending on the symptoms, the types of therapy for anxiety are tailored to your diagnosis and needs. It can be conducted individually or as group therapy, as well as in person or online.
Sessions are usually once a week for 50 minutes, although the frequency may vary depending on your diagnosis and the severity of your anxiety symptoms.
There’s a misconception about therapy for anxiety that you will automatically feel good once you start it, which is not always the case. Facing the discomfort of exploring more deeply what’s causing you anxiety is challenging, but it’s necessary for overcoming it.
Below we’ll review the types of therapy for anxiety that psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals use to deal with these disorders.
Types of Therapy for Anxiety
Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most widely used technique to treat anxiety disorders, thanks to its high effectiveness rates in addressing GAD, phobias, panic attacks, and other conditions.
This therapy aims to change your thoughts and react differently to your daily challenges. The premise of CBT is that external situations are not what affect your feelings and responses but rather the negative thoughts that lead you to engage in inappropriate behavior patterns.
During this therapy, the counselor helps you identify and replace these negative beliefs with more realistic thoughts to react more effectively to your circumstances.
Although it may take some time at first, once you identify the triggers of your anxiety, you will use the tools learned in this therapy to manage your fear and worries better. Exposure therapy can be very effective in facing those triggers that generate worry to better cope with the physical consequences of this disorder.
Dialectical behavior therapy for anxiety
This type of CBT therapy is very effective for treating anxiety disorders, although it was initially created to treat borderline personality disorder.
During dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) sessions, the therapist will help you develop an opposite or “dialectical” outlook, change, and acceptance. This will help you cope with your anxiety symptoms while you actively try to change them.
DBT teaches you mindfulness strategies, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance, among others.
Psychodynamic therapy for anxiety
This form of talk therapy was developed as a shorter and simpler form of psychoanalysis. Psychodynamic therapy aims to unmask the psychological processes behind anxiety symptoms.
The therapist focuses on deepening your understanding of your daily challenges and assessing the behavioral patterns you have developed over time during the sessions.
Being aware of these patterns will help you realize how you’re avoiding certain situations and creating maladaptive defense mechanisms. From this insight, you will be motivated to change these habits for a better quality of life.
The relationship with your therapist is essential during this type of therapy, as it’s a reflection of how you interact with your friends and loved ones. Transference in therapy shows how childhood attachments affect a person's life today.
Acceptance and commitment therapy
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) has also proven to be one of the most effective types of therapy for anxiety. It focuses on identifying your values in life and how to act in accordance with them.
It also aims to accept those circumstances that we cannot modify, teaching you strategies to cope with stress and anxiety effectively. At the same time, it leads you to commit to changing certain behaviors to increase psychological flexibility.
This therapy is focused on our relationships and social roles. During the sessions, you work with the therapist to identify inter-relational problems that are currently triggering anxiety symptoms, such as family or friendship conflicts, role changes at work, or any other issues that involve dealing with other people.
During this therapy, you’ll learn healthier and more effective ways of communicating with others, so it is highly recommended for treating social anxiety disorder.
Can Online Therapy Help?
Anxiety disorders can be challenging to treat due to the high level of avoidance behaviors that clients engage in, which can jeopardize treatment.
- Comfort: People dealing with anxiety disorders are excessively fearful of encountering people, situations, objects, etc., which triggers the unpleasant reactions typical of this disorder. This can make them unwilling to go through the process of in-person therapy, especially those dealing with PTSD or SAD. For this reason, online therapy can be an excellent alternative, as it helps you initiate the treatment from a comfortable environment.
- Convenience: Online therapy for anxiety can also be more convenient than in-person sessions. Online therapy sessions allow you to attend your appointments from home or anywhere you prefer; over the phone or computer. You don't have to worry about traveling to the therapist's office, saving you a lot of time and energy in the process.
In addition, online counseling is more affordable than in-person treatment, provides anonymity if you so desire, and has more options available for finding the ideal therapist for you.
Anxiety is a natural biological response that prepares us to deal with threatening situations quickly. But if you can't control your excessive worry, or if your anxiety symptoms are interfering with your normal functioning, it's time to reach out to a professional therapist.
Some of the types of therapy for anxiety available include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, dialectical behavior therapy, interpersonal therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. All of them can be conducted as online therapy to provide you with the convenience and comfort to restore a sense of well-being in your life.
Our network of qualified mental health professionals can help you start online counseling and work through the negative consequences of anxiety. Online therapy for anxiety will help you identify and better understand the triggers of your anxiety symptoms, as well as modify negative beliefs and thoughts you have about your daily challenges in order to respond more adaptively to them.