Treatment Options for Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural response to many situations that arise in life, but anxiety disorders involve ongoing, chronic, elevated feelings of fear, excessive worry and ongoing feelings of dread and uneasiness. About 40 million American adults have an anxiety disorder, making them among the most common of all psychological disorders.  Only one-third of people with chronic anxiety get the treatment they need to make a full recovery, even though anxiety responds extremely well to treatment. In fact, all anxiety disorders can improve with care and treatment. 

Common Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety affects how a person thinks and feels and also has significant effects on the body. There’s a feedback loop between physical stress and mental stress and anxiety. The more we perceive a threat, even if one isn’t present, the more our bodies react. When the body grows tense, the mind tends to interpret that tension as proof that a threat is becoming more likely. Consequently, anxiety scales higher and higher.

Just a few common anxiety symptoms include:

  • Recurrent nervousness and tension
  • A sense of impending doom or danger
  • Intrusive and uncontrollable feelings of worry
  • Feeling restless and on-edge
  • Shortness of breath
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Problems focusing, trouble concentrating
  • Muscle tension and aches
  • Trouble sleeping, restless or interrupted sleep
  • GI problems

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Self-Treatment and Home Care for Anxiety

Stress Management and Relaxation

  1. Talking with friends and family. Sometimes sharing with others can really drain anxiety’s built-up tension. Letting others know how you’re feeling helps you feel less alone as well allowing you to get some much needed support.
  2. Time off and sleep. Anxiety interferes with getting good sleep. It’s important to get that sleep. You can’t skip relaxation, either. Consider choosing activities that are known to drain away tension, like yoga and exercise.
  3. Nature. Enjoying nature is a great way to diffuse anxiety. Taking a walk in a pleasant outdoor environment focuses attention outward and away from the self-feeding loop of worry and anxiety.
  4. Hot Baths. A hot bath can really drain away tension, again by causing tight, clenched muscles to relax. 
  5. Breathing Exercises. When our muscles are tense our breathing becomes shallower and comes from contracting the upper half to quarter of the lungs. We need to shift to belly breathing. 

Nutrition

  • Caffeine Reduction. Although caffeine does a great job at boosting concentration and wakefulness, it’s also able to cause jitters. 
  • Alcohol Reduction. Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system.  - 25 to 50 Words
  • Smoking Reduction. Smokers often think that smoking cigarettes relieves anxiety, but nicotine is a stimulant. Smoking relieves anxiety caused by nicotine, not anxiety that results from an anxiety disorder. Gradually reducing the amount one smokes reduces anxiety.
  • Food Journal. Anxiety can lower a person’s appetite and cause weight loss, but it can also boost a person’s craving for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Keeping a food journal of everything you eat helps prevent under and overeating.

Medication

There are several different classes of medications that have been found to be effective for reducing anxiety. They include:

  • Antidepressants. Sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil) and fluvoxamine (Luvox) are commonly given for anxiety.
  • Tricyclics. Tricyclic antidepressants are an older class of medication that has had some success in treating anxiety disorders. Some examples include Anafranil (clomipramine), Tofranil (imipramine) and Pamelor (nortriptyline).
  • Buspirone. Buspirone is specifically made to treat anxiety and is non-addictive.
  • Benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are useful for the short-term relief of panic attacks, but not for chronic anxiety. Unlike other medications, they become less effective as time goes by and are very addictive. 

Mindfulness

Worry and anxiety takes us out of the moment and drops us into imagining a potential outcome that hasn’t happened. Mindfulness re-focuses us on the here and now and gets us to pay attention to what’s real. Mindfulness is also a way to accept our thoughts and emotions without judging them.

  • Yoga. Yoga helps relax muscles that stay tense due to ongoing anxiety. Yoga also places a significant focus on reducing the stress response. The stress response is highly reactive in people with anxiety, thus making yoga a great way to calm the systems responsible for generating anxiety.
  • Meditation. Meditation is useful for reducing mild to moderate anxiety. 

Therapy

Anxiety disorders often require therapy for long-term alleviation of anxiety. Sometimes medication is also required. One of the most common and effective therapeutic approaches for anxiety is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is based on the idea that we are disturbed and stressed not so much by the impact of negative events as their implications. Learning how our thoughts affects us can give us useful tools to defuse anxiety. CBT also delivers these tools


Other approaches to psychotherapy can also be helpful, like Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy.

Exercise

Exercise is one of the best self-care techniques for managing exercise. You don’t have to run a marathon, either. Just get moving and increase your heart rate for at least ten to twenty minutes a day