Anxiety Treatment Options

By The Fix staff 01/21/15

Learn the different types of Anxiety Disorders and Treatment Options

Anxiety Treatment Options

Anxiety disorders affect the lives of more than 40 million Americans according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Signs of an Anxiety Disorder

The signs of an anxiety disorder can occur as a result or in conjunction with other mental health disorders. The signs of an anxiety disorder can include withdrawal from social or recreational situations as well as changes in a person's mood. In many cases, an anxiety disorder will result in intense anxiety and feelings of terror toward a specific situation.

Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder

The symptoms of an anxiety disorder vary depending upon the type of the disorder. While each type of the following anxiety disorders is characterized by a unique set of circumstances, the common symptoms include feelings of constant nervousness, powerlessness, a sense of imminent danger, increased heart rate and respiration rate, sweating, tremors, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and suicidal thoughts or actions.

Suicidal thoughts or actions are a MEDICAL EMERGENCY and require IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE.

Furthermore, anxiety may reveal an increase in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse or unsafe sexual practices. As the anxiety disorder progress, the anxiety becomes the only emotion the person can experience.

In order to receive a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, a person must exhibit the symptoms listed in the DSM V.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

This type of anxiety disorder develops during childhood when anxiety arises following separation from parents or guardians. However, the disorder can progress and cause problems later during adulthood.

Selective Mutism

This anxiety disorder is characterized by a failure to speak in certain situations, such as during a school or work event. While this anxiety disorder does not cause problems for most people, it can be damaging for those who must create and present material as part of their work or school responsibilities

Specific Phobias

These irrational fears can accompany any possible object, activity or creature in existence. Imagine arachnophobia, which is fear of spiders.

Social Anxiety Disorder

This disorder causes extremely high levels of anxiety when in social situations due to unrealistic, irrational feelings of low self-confidence, embarrassment, or concern about other people's view of yourself

Panic Disorder

Agoraphobia is a fear of becoming trapped or enclosed, which could include work, home, school, or cars

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This form of an anxiety disorder is the most common affliction affecting people around the world. During generalized anxiety disorder, a person becomes overly fearful to the point of terrified during normal, routine activities. Furthermore, it often occurs in conjunction with other mental health disorders.

Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Following legal or illicit drug use, a person may begin to experience anxiety as a result of minor withdrawal from the respective drug.

Anxiety Disorder as a Result of a Medical Condition

The uncertainty of a new or existing medical condition can cause extreme anxiety due to possible treatment, surgery, medications, or even financial cost.

Causes of Anxiety Disorder

Scientists and psychology professional have continued to search for the causes of anxiety and specific anxiety disorders. While the names of some specific anxiety disorders will reveal the attributing factors to each respective anxiety disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, each form of anxiety is the result of a combination of psychological, genetic, and environmental factors.


Testing for an anxiety disorder requires a total mental and physical evaluation. This evaluation exists to rule out symptoms of anxiety as the symptoms of other diseases or disorders. In addition, any previously existing medical condition must be treated before attempting to treat the anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Treatment Options

Teating a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder involves a variety of treatment options. A person suffering with an anxiety disorder may benefit from medication treatment, psychotherapy, and even hospitalization in times of crisis.

Medications for Anxiety Treatment

Many different classes of medications exist to treat anxiety disorders. These medications may treat the root causes of the respective anxiety disorder or the physical symptoms of the disease.


Since anxiety may be the result of a chemical imbalance within the central nervous system — the brain — antidepressants have been used to successfully treat anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, these medications may take up to six weeks of consistent, frequent use in order to be effective. Only a physician or nurse practitioner has the authority to issue a prescription for an antidepressant for the treatment of an anxiety disorder. 


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are perhaps one of the newest classes of antidepressant medications. These medications work by allowing a larger amount of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, to make the jump and communicate effectively with other neurons within the brain. Serotonin is the chemical neurotransmitter responsible for controlling the amount of anxiety a person experiences. In those suffering from an anxiety disorder, the amount of serotonin released is quickly reabsorbed into the originating neuron before activating the neuron it should have communicated with. SSRIs have fewer side effects that traditional tricyclic antidepressants, which can be dangerous when taken in large quantities; although tricyclics may have a stronger effect on the anxiety disorder more quickly than the safer, newer medication.


Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are among the oldest antidepressant medications, and they do not treat many anxiety disorder besides panic disorder and OCD.

Anti-Anxiety Drugs

Another medication treatment option for anxiety disorder are anti-anxiety drugs. These drugs often lack the side effects found in other treatment options, but they can become addictive more easily. Furthermore, repeated use will cause an increase in tolerance levels of the medications, and a higher dosage will be required in order to achieve the same effect.

Psychotherapy Treatment for Anxiety Disorders: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Although many medications have been used successfully for the treatment of many anxiety disorders, most people benefit the most from a combination of psychotherapy and medication treatment. Of the available therapies for the treatment of anxiety disorder, most therapists utilize cognitive behavioral therapy. Furthermore, cognitive behavioral therapy may be conducted by social workers, licensed counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists.

Changing the negative thought processes resulting in the severe symptoms and signs of an anxiety disorder or other mental illness remains the goal of each session involving cognitive behavioral therapy. If you consider that most anxiety disorders occur as a result of an irrational fear of a certain situation, object, or creature, you can see how gradual education about the feared situation can assist in treating anxiety disorder.

Exposure-based therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. During the course of treatment, a person with a fear of something gradually exposes themselves to the feared situation. Every exposure reinforces the fact that the person will survive the feared situation. As the number of exposures and reinforcements grows, the person will begin to understand and believe that he or she will be able to defeat the problems presented by the feared situation.

Although this type of therapy has shown promise in treating anxiety, it may be ineffective for the use of some anxiety disorders that have a true cause behind them. For example, there is not any real way to use the exposure-based therapy when addressing the anxiety created following a medical condition. In most cases of treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy, patients require at least three months of treatment in order to be an effective treatment option. However, your therapist and you will determine when your course of treatment will be expected to end and how it will go.

Although millions of Americans continue living their lives without treating their anxiety disorders, there are some common signs, symptoms, and treatment options available. When left untreated, anxiety disorder can cause severe implications for social, home, and work responsibilities as the person suffering from the anxiety disorder becomes more vulnerable to his unrealistic fears. Through dedicated and consistent medication treatment in combination with psychotherapy, people suffering from an anxiety disorder have every chance of overcoming their illness. However, they must first realize that the distress and pain of dealing with feared situations will only continue if they fail to get any sort of proper treatment.

The more time someone spends with an untreated anxiety disorder, the worse the disorder will become. This is especially true for individuals with another mental health disorder, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or even substance abuse issues. Anxiety disorder can even lead to suicidal thoughts or actions, and no one should begin thinking about dying out of an irrational fear of a specific situation, thing, or other aspect of life.

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