How do you treat anxiety?

Theresa Nguyen, LCSW, Mental Health America

Anxiety is about worry and fear. Worry and fear happens when something causes you to learn to be scared and worried. This learning process affects your thoughts and your body, for example by causing your heart to race or excessive sweating. You can treat anxiety by addressing the thoughts and physical reactions that are happening in your mind and body. For example, you can re learn how to be around the thing that scares you and NOT react with fear, essentially retraining your thoughts and physical reactions.

Some examples of how to treat anxiety include:

Therapy: There are many different types of therapy. It can be a great way to change behaviors, gain confidence, learn new skills, and talk with someone openly and honestly. One of the most common and researched types of therapy for anxiety is Systematic Desensitization and Exposure Therapy.  The main aspects of these types of treatment are slow exposure in uncomfortable situations, often in a safe environment with someone working with you to address the desire to run away.  The goal is to do the thing you’re scared of and work on changing thoughts and behaviors.  

Support groups: Support groups are made up of individuals with similar experiences, like anxiety, who meet regularly to discuss their experiences. There are many groups specific to anxiety, in addition to groups around broader issues. Talking to people who are going through the same things can make you feel less alone and more connected. It also creates a space where people can share what has worked for them and talk through their struggles with people who understand.

Medication: Another option is to take medications. Medications literally mellow you out and prevent your body from reacting in a fearful way. Anti-anxiety medications like Xanax or Klonopin are designed to  work quickly to help calm you down by slowing down brain activity or communication between your body and brain. Unfortunately, these drugs can be very addictive.  Another drug that can be used to treat anxiety are antidepressants.

Lifestyle Changes: Research shows exercise, meditation, and yoga can all improve mood and overall well being. Research also shows the importance of nutrition and certain supplements in supporting brain and mood. Other things like taking time to take care of yourself, trying activities you enjoy, and spending time with people or environments where you feel supported can help as well.

While there is no one simple answer, people do recover with a combination of supports. It can take some time to find out what works best for you, but it does get better.

Treatment & Resources