"Anxiety Disorder: What It Is and Treatment Options" (Part 3)

Woman with hands on her head stressed out

     This is our third in the three part series on anxiety. In part one, we explored a basic understanding and overview of anxiety. Part two of this series discussed anxiety disorders and some symptoms that accompany this mental state. This article will look at mainstream or conventional, complimentary and alternative treatments available to those suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety Disorders are Treatable

     Now is a good time to understand that anxiety disorders are treatable. A majority of the population with an anxiety disorder can be helped with professional care. Treatment plans can vary from person to person, but a plan can be tailored to an individual’s needs and any other conditions that are presenting themselves. Mental, medical and environmental conditions are considered in any treatment plan for anxiety or anxiety disorders. The length of a treatment plan can also vary from a few weeks, to months or encompass the entire life span. The timeframe can be determined as the individual makes progress in their care.

     Although a treatment plan is tailored for the individual, several standard approaches have proved effective. Your health care professional will use one or a combination of these treatments:

                  -  Psychotherapy
                  -  Medication
                  -  Complementary and alternative treatment

     A mainstream treatment most often used in conjunction with psychotropic drugs is psychotherapy or counseling sessions. These sessions will involve a mental health professional such as a licensed psychologist, licensed professional counselor, licensed clinical social worker, and others. Research demonstrates the form of psychotherapy known as “cognitive-behavioral therapy” (CBT) may be effective in treating anxiety disorders. Psychologists, counselors, and therapists employ the use of CBT to assist people in identifying and managing factors contributing to their anxiety. The behavioral therapy approach is used to reduce or stop undesired distorted thoughts, confused thinking and behaviors associated with these anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the patient understand how their thoughts may contribute to their anxiety disorder. Patients become more aware of internal dialogues and cognitions that then impact emotional triggers. They then become more able to implement behavioral techniques allowing them to confront and tolerate fearful situations in a safe environment with the guidance of a mental health professional.


     Many times medications are also needed along with psychotherapy.  When this situation occurs, more than one provider of treatment can manage the patient’s care collaboratively in order to provide a continuity of care. When medications are indicated as part of the treatment plan, the patient should ideally receive education as to the importance and awareness of side effects to any drugs. These medications and side effects should be monitored closely by the prescribing healthcare professional. Medications should always be taken under the care of the prescribing physician or psychiatrist.

     Medications and psychotherapy are considered mainstream or conventional treatments for anxiety disorders. Complimentary and alternative treatments are becoming choices of treatments for a growing population. Complimentary medicine is used along with conventional or mainstream medicine. For example, diffusing essential oils through the technique known as aromatherapy can help lesson anxiety levels and encourage deeper, relaxing breathing. Alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine such as following a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing radiation or chemotherapy and surgery recommended by a medical doctor. In anxiety disorders, herbs and natural supplements may be used instead of a psychotropic drug, along with diet and lifestyle changes such as stress reducing exercise or yoga.

     Just as no two people are alike, neither are treatment plans for any one individual. It is important that the person suffering from anxiety or an anxiety disorder be able to obtain the support they need to lead an active and productive quality of life. Just as the individual is affected from an anxiety disorder, families and relationship are affected as well. When the person receives the help necessary, the family and relationships will typically begin to improve.

     It is hoped this series of three articles on the subject of anxiety has been helpful in increasing your knowledge of this mental health area. We humans live in a community of people. Because of this, what we think, what we feel, and what we do profoundly impacts others. When one person is helped in coping or overcoming an anxiety disorder, the effects reach further than what would appear to be on the surface.  If you know someone suffering from an anxiety disorder, encourage him or her to seek help from a professional. The sooner, the better.