Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions, affecting more than 40 million adults in the US of age 18 and older.
Fortunately, there are many treatment options available that can help lessen anxiety symptoms and improve quality of life.
While there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for anxiety, various approaches may be helpful for different people.
In this article, we’ll discuss various treatment options, medications, and natural remedies for anxiety. We’ll also discuss when it is important to seek professional help.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion that everyone experiences at different times. It’s the body’s way of preparing to respond to or face a challenging situation.
It may make you feel like your heart is racing, make it hard to breathe, or give you butterflies in your stomach.
These physical symptoms are often accompanied by anxious thoughts or worry.
For some people, anxiety can be short-lived and related to a temporary experience, such as when giving a presentation or going on a first date.
But for others, anxiety can be more severe and long-lasting, interfering with daily activities such as work, school, and relationships.
This more severe form of anxiety may be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, each with its own symptoms.
Can Anxiety Be Cured?
A person’s tendency to have anxiety can be linked to several factors like genetic makeup, life experiences, environment, and brain chemistry.
Because of this, some people may be more prone to anxiety than others.
That said, anxiety disorders are treatable.
With the appropriate treatment approach, most people with anxiety can manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
However, only 36.9% of those experiencing symptoms of anxiety receive treatment.
This may be due to the fact that anxiety disorders are often seen as a private matter, people don’t know when to seek appropriate help or because they don’t know where to find the help.
There are many effective treatment options available for anxiety disorders.
The key is working with a mental health professional to find the best approach for you.
There are many different types of treatments available for anxiety disorders.
The most effective approach often depends on the type of anxiety disorder and the severity of symptoms.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant medication commonly used to treat anxiety disorders.
SSRIs help increase the levels of serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitters) that carries signals between brain nerve cells (neurons).
SSRIs approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are used to treat anxiety disorders.
SNRIs are also sometimes used to treat long-term (chronic) pain and nerve pain in addition to depression.
SNRIs approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression include:
- Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
Benzodiazepines are a class of psychotropic medication typically used to treat anxiety.
They can, however, also be used for other conditions such as alcohol withdrawal, muscle spasms, and seizures.
Benzodiazepines approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include:
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Librax (chlordiazepoxide HCl/clidinium bromide)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide HCI)
- Onfi (clobazam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Gen-Xene, Tranxene (clorazepate)
- Diastat, Diastat Acudial, Valium, Valtoco (diazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Doral (quazepam)
- Restoril (temazepam)
Other Prescription Medications
There are other types of prescription medications that may be used to treat anxiety disorders.
Tricyclic antidepressants are an older class of antidepressant medications.
They are not as commonly used as SSRIs or SNRIs, but they may be helpful for some people.
Examples of tricyclic antidepressants include:
- Anafranil (Clomipramine)
- Asendin (Amoxapine)
- Pamelor (Nortriptyline)
- Sinequan (Doxepin)
- Surmontil (Trimipramine)
- Tofranil (Imipramine)
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
MAOIs are a type of antidepressant medication that is not as commonly used as other types of antidepressants.
They may be helpful for some people, but they can have serious side effects.
Examples of MAOIs include:
- Eldepryl (selegiline)
- Marplan (isocarboxazid)
- Nardil (phenelzine)
- Azilect (rasagiline)
- Emsam (selegiline transdermal)
- Zelapar (selegiline orally disintegrating tablets)
Beta-blockers are a type of medication that is most often used to treat heart conditions.
They can also be used to treat anxiety disorders.
Examples of beta-blockers include:
- Inderal (Propranolol)
- Tenormin (Atenolol)
- Lopressor (Metoprolol)
Buspirone is a type of medication that the FDA approves to treat anxiety disorders. It is in a class of medications called azapirones.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
If you experience symptoms of anxiety, you may benefit from psychotherapy (a type of counseling).
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can be effective for treating anxiety disorders.
Through CBT, you work with a therapist to identify negative thoughts and behaviors and replace them with healthier beliefs. CBT can take place in individual therapy sessions or in group therapy.
Exposure therapy is another type of therapy that involves gradually exposing yourself to the things that trigger anxiety.
The goal of exposure therapy is to help you confront your fears and learn to control symptoms of anxiety.
Exposure therapy uses systematic desensitization, which involves the following steps.
- Relax: The therapist teaches you relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and deep breathing to help manage symptoms of anxiety.
- List: The therapist helps create a list of triggers and ranks them in the order of intensity.
- Expose: The therapist gradually exposes anxiety-provoking objects or situations and encourages the use of relaxation techniques to manage the body’s fight-or-flight response/symptoms of anxiety.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a well-known treatment that is effective for treating anxiety disorders.
DBT encourages the acceptance of anxiety and helps work on change of thoughts and behaviors through four main skills – mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation.
The goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to face and uncover past conflicts and work through these issues.
Studies have shown remission rates of 40% for both CBT and psychoanalysis.
There are several things you can do to prevent symptoms of anxiety from impacting your daily functioning.
Here are some tips:
Some lifestyle changes that can help prevent symptoms of anxiety include:
- Exercise: Exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. A meta-analysis found that exercise is an effective treatment for anxiety, with a large effect size.
- Diet: Eating a healthy diet is important for both physical and mental health. Some foods that may help reduce anxiety include omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and magnesium-rich foods.
- Stress management: Managing stress can help reduce your risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Stress management techniques include relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing.
- Social Support: Social support can help reduce anxiety and improve mental health. Some ways to get social support include joining a support group, attending social events, and spending time with family and friends.
- Self-Care: Taking care of yourself is important for maintaining your mental health. Some self-care activities that can help reduce anxiety include getting enough sleep, practicing yoga or meditation, and taking breaks from work or school.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
If you are experiencing anxiety symptoms, it is important to see a healthcare provider.
Symptoms of anxiety can be different for everyone, and only a healthcare provider can diagnose an anxiety disorder.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms that impact your daily functioning, please see a healthcare provider:
- Excessive worry or fear
- Avoidance of activities or situations due to fear or worry
- Sleep problems
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical symptoms such as sweating, rapid heartbeat, or trembling
If you are seeking treatment for anxiety, there are many options available.
Treatment for anxiety can include medication, therapy, or a combination of both.
It’s important to work with a healthcare provider to find the treatment that best fits your needs.
How K Health Can Help
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Anxiety & Depression Association of America. (n.d.).
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: an update on the empirical evidence. (2015).
Depression Medicines. (2019).
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Adults with Mental Illness: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines. (2017).
Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis. (2018).
FDA requiring Boxed Warning updated to improve safe use of benzodiazepine drug class. (2020).
Long-Term Outcome of Psychodynamic Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Social Anxiety Disorder. (2014).
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Information. (2014).