What are the treatments for anxiety disorders?
The treatments for anxiety disorders involve psychotherapy (usually a cognitive behavioural therapy model) and/or medication, usually an antidepressant such as an SSRI. Most people who suffer from anxiety disorders may be offered a combination of psychological and medication treatment.
This is a talking therapy which involves regularly meeting with a therapist in either an individual or group basis over a course of several weeks to months or longer in some cases. In relation to anxiety disorders, the most effective form of psychotherapy is known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
In CBT the thinking styles and behaviours that may play a role in causing and maintaining anxiety are looked at, and more helpful ways of thinking and acting are discovered and encouraged. This can then help to reduce anxiety and improve coping.
Medication can play an important role in helping to reduce anxiety.
Antidepressants: these have been shown to be effective as part of the treatment of anxiety disorders, even in the absence of depression. The SSRI class of medication is usually the first line choice antidepressant but in some cases alternative classes (such as SNRI or TCA medication) are used, especially when a person has tried an SSRI previously but found it unhelpful. All antidepressants take between 2 to 4 weeks before they begin to work, and they must be taken regularly to be effective.
Benzodiazepines: These medications are sometimes used in the short-term management of anxiety. However, as they can become addictive when they are used regularly for a period as short as 4 weeks, their use is best reserved for help in coping with severe anxiety, and even then should be limited to no more than 2 weeks duration.
Other medications: Depending on the nature and severity of anxiety, several other medications are sometimes recommended by doctors in addition to the above.
- Beta Blockers (which can help with the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as shaking or sweating or palpitations);
- Pregabalin (these can help generalized anxiety symptoms);
- Low-dose antipsychotic medication (these are sometimes used in addition to antidepressant medications in those with severe OCD or PTSD or in cases where there is significant agitation).