Getting treatment for anxiety disorders is important. If untreated, the condition can have a severe and negative impact on your quality of life. Medication is one way of treating anxiety; therapy is another.
Therapy for anxiety equips you with tools to manage your symptoms long-term. Unlike medication, therapy deals with the root of the problem, not just the symptoms. Your therapist may recommend a specific type of therapy along with medication to treat your anxiety.
You should reach out for help when your anxiety attacks become debilitating. If you are unsure whether therapy is for you, we are here to help.
Let’s take a look at the different types of therapy for anxiety and to help you get a better idea of how they work.
What Types of Therapy Are Used for Treating Anxiety Disorders?
The goal of therapy for anxiety is to help you understand your disorder’s cause, triggers, and equip you with effective coping mechanisms.
Here are some of the most effective treatment options for anxiety.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most commonly used type of therapy for anxiety disorders. According to research, it is also effective for:
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- General anxiety disorder
- And phobias
CBT works because it focuses on changing your thought process rather than the situation causing you anxiety. Some of your triggers may be out of your control. Your reaction to them, however, can be in your control thanks to CBT.
Challenging negative thoughts is one of the most effective techniques taught in CBT. It helps you identify negative thoughts, challenge them, and replace them with positive ones. Over time, you develop a positive thinking pattern.
Your therapist coaches you through various negative thoughts that trigger your anxiety. They help you review them pragmatically. You may realize that your thoughts are not realistic. Consequently, you adopt a more realistic perception and are less prone to anxiety.
Exposure Therapy for Anxiety
Your first instinct when you feel anxiety setting in is to run. You may run in the literal sense of the word or avoid the situation altogether. Your reaction may be helpful short-term, but it has no long-term benefits. You may never be able to overcome anxiety if all you do is run from it.
Exposure therapy makes you come face-to-face with your fears. It works by repeatedly exposing you to things you are afraid of in a controlled environment. When your mind registers that these things are not a threat, and you may overcome anxiety.
Exposure therapy is done in one of two ways:
- Your therapist may guide you to imagine a scenario you fear.
- Or, you may have to confront your dears in real life.
The former works for fears that cannot be simulated in real life, while the latter works for those that can.
For example, your anxiety may be triggered by past trauma. Your therapist will have you imagine the worst-case scenario, i.e., the traumatic incident reoccurring. On the other hand, if you fear spiders, your therapist may get you to touch one eventually.
Exposure therapy may sound scary. You probably dislike the idea of doing something you are afraid of. Know that this type of therapy is done in a controlled environment. Also, your therapist will never force you to confront your fears; rather, he will guide you gently.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical behavioral therapy works by going against your instinct. It is normal to wish you did not have anxiety. However, this type of therapy helps you embrace the disorder while working to overcome it.
DBT requires you to acknowledge your anxiety rather than ignore it. It equips you with skills to recognize negative thoughts and let them pass without obsessing over them. Eventually, you can manage worries and fears before it gets out of control.
This form of therapy also makes you efficient at social interaction. You learn how to say no to uncomfortable requests or situations. You also learn how to ask for what you need.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Anxiety
Acceptance and commitment therapy emphasizes accepting your anxiety and reducing your struggle to control or do away with it. It also teaches you to direct your energy towards meaningful activities that enhance personal development.
ACT is based on mindfulness, cognitive defusion, and value clarification. Your therapist guides you through mindfulness exercises that foster healthy awareness of thoughts and feelings. When you recognize your thought process, your therapist helps you create a different narrative and accept it as part of your experience.
You may get homework to do after your sessions. You may also have to reevaluate your life’s plan and goals and commit to them. This therapy is effective because it occupies your mind with more constructive thoughts and fosters self-improvement.
Interpersonal Therapy for Anxiety
Social situations and relationships can be a source of anxiety for some people. Interpersonal therapy focuses on improving your interactions with those around you. Your worries may come from conflicts with loved ones, unresolved grief, and tension with coworkers. To coexist well with others, you need interpersonal skills
This type of therapy teaches effective communication and mindfulness. You learn how to relate with others and express yourself in ways that do not result in conflict.
Primarily, this type of therapy is used when there is a clear cause of your anxiety. Its scope is limited to your current relationships.
How Can Therapy Help Anxiety?
With the right treatment, it is possible to live a life free of anxiety. The different types of therapy can help you manage your symptoms in the following ways.
Point out Your Triggers
Identifying the cause of your anxiety attacks can be difficult to do on your own. When it strikes, it overwhelms you. At that moment, you cannot think logically and identify the trigger.
A licensed therapist knows how to point out the root cause of your anxiety. They may do this by looking close enough, reviewing your past, and simulating real-life situations. Exploring the circumstances around the feelings of anxiety can help you make the necessary changes to your life.
Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Your first instinct when you feel anxious is to ignore your impulse and hope it goes away. More often than not, your anxiety gets worse the more you try to ignore it. The result is an anxiety attack in public that leaves you exhausted and embarrassed.
Therapy will help you cope rather than run from your worries. You learn how to embrace and overcome negative thoughts when they arise. Moreover, you learn techniques such as mindfulness that improve your quality of life.
Reframe Your Thought Process
Anxiety is a response to perceived danger. Your perception of danger comes from your thoughts. One negative thought leads to another, and it all gets out of proportion. Therapy for anxiety teaches you to rewire your thoughts.
Rather than obsess over your perceived fear to the point of frustration, you redirect your mind. Your therapist will work with you to identify negative thoughts and see that they are not always realistic. That way, the next time you feel anxious, you will confront your thoughts and replace them with positive ones.
Most people living with a disorder feel embarrassed and avoid situations that may trigger the symptoms. Doing so is a temporary solution; you might eventually encounter an unavoidable situation. Therapy builds self-awareness to help you learn more about your anxiety and how to cope.
Your therapist will work with you so that you can anticipate anxiety. Knowing your triggers and the negative thoughts that harm you is one way of doing so. When you anticipate anxiety, you can put necessary coping strategies in place.
Self-awareness means being comfortable in your skin, being aware of your symptoms, and managing them accordingly.
Manage Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety is an automatic response to fear. It presents several physical symptoms that you cannot easily control. You may experience shortness of breath, dizziness, and a fast heartbeat. These symptoms may be mild or severe.
Your therapist will teach you several techniques to manage the symptoms. Deep breathing, for example, can slow your heartbeat. You take in more oxygen and relax in the process. As you calm down, you can reorganize your thoughts and take control of your anxiety.
Why Is It Important to Seek Help?
Anxiety can severely impact the quality of your life. Although everyone feels anxious from time to time, extreme emotions are draining. You might not sleep or eat well. Your productivity at work and your relationships may be affected.
Seeking help from a licensed therapist is advisable. It equips you to anticipate and cope with anxiety. A professional who understands anxiety uses the right tools and techniques to help you overcome it.
Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach.Read more