The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications. You may benefit most from a combination of the two. It may take some trial and error to discover which treatments work best for you.
Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. It can be an effective treatment for anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. Generally a short-term treatment, CBT focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you've avoided because of anxiety.
CBT includes exposure therapy, in which you gradually encounter the object or situation that triggers your anxiety so you build confidence that you can manage the situation and anxiety symptoms.
Several types of medications are used to help relieve symptoms, depending on the type of anxiety disorder you have and whether you also have other mental or physical health issues. For example:
- Certain antidepressants are also used to treat anxiety disorders.
- An anti-anxiety medication called buspirone may be prescribed.
- In limited circumstances, your doctor may prescribe a certain type of sedative called a benzodiazepine for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms.
Talk with your doctor about benefits, risks and possible side effects of medications.
Several herbal remedies have been studied as a treatment for anxiety, but more research is needed to understand the risks and benefits. Herbal and dietary supplements aren't monitored by the FDA the same way medications are. You can't always be certain of what you're getting and whether it's safe. Some of these supplements can interfere with prescription medications or cause dangerous interactions.
Before taking herbal remedies or dietary supplements, talk to your doctor to make sure they're safe for you and won't interact with any medications you take.
Dec. 31, 2015
- Anxiety disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Sept. 24, 2015.
- Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Accessed Sept. 24, 2015.
- Cook, AJ. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 14, 2015.
- Anxiety disorders. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders/Overview. Accessed Oct. 1, 2015.
- Help with anxiety disorders. American Psychiatric Association. http://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders. Accessed Oct. 1, 2015.
- Reinhold JA, et al. Pharmacological treatment for generalized anxiety disorder in adults: An update. Expert Opinion in Pharmacotherapy. 2015;16:1669.
- Bandelow B, et al. Efficacy of treatments for anxiety disorders: A meta-analysis. International Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2015;30:183.
- Find support. National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www.nami.org/Find-Support. Accessed Oct. 1, 2015.
- Bazzan AJ, et al. Current evidence regarding the management of mood and anxiety disorders using complementary and alternative medicine. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics. 2014;14:411.
- Natural medicines in the clinical management of anxiety. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Oct. 1, 2015.
- Sarris J, et al. Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, Part 2: A review of clinical studies with supporting preclinical evidence. CNS Drugs. 2013;27:301.
- Bystritsky A. Complementary and alternative treatments for anxiety symptoms and disorders: Herbs and medications. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 4, 2015.
- Bystritsky A. Pharmacotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 4, 2015.
- Whiteside SP (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 27, 2015.
- Sawchuk CN (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 6, 2015.