There are different types of anxiety disorders, each of which might require a different approach during treatment. For the best results, it’s always best to seek professional help and explore your options together. A professional will be able to recommend the best type of therapy for your individual needs.
In this article, we’re exploring six types of therapy for anxiety disorders.
Types of Therapy for Anxiety Disorders
Worry. Stress. Panic. A sense of impending doom. All can be symptoms of various anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health disorders out there, affecting as many as 19% of adults and 7% of children in the United States. And yet, many people still don’t understand anxiety disorders the way they might understand disorders like depression. People who have anxiety disorders are commonly told to “just stop worrying so much”, reminded that things “aren’t that bad” so they shouldn’t worry so much, asked if they’ve tried meditation/yoga/mindfulness or some other trendy stress solution, or pressured to act as if they’re OK when they’re clearly not.
The truth is that anxiety disorders are real and truly debilitating for some people, and dealing with them takes more than just deciding not to be anxious or randomly trying mindfulness exercises with no guidance. The fears and worries that people who suffer from anxiety disorders have are also often not logical or proportional, so it doesn’t help to be told that things aren’t really so bad. The person with an anxiety disorder knows this – it doesn’t stop the anxiety.
What can help a person manage their anxiety is medical and therapeutic treatment. Prescription medication can be useful for people experiencing anxiety disorders, but it’s more effective when it’s combined with the correct type of therapy for the sufferer. And some anxiety sufferers are able to manage their anxiety with therapy only and no medications, while those who need medication usually also need therapy. Therefore, it’s important to understand what therapies are available and effective for anxiety and how they help. If you or someone you love suffers from an anxiety disorder, knowing the available options and their effectiveness can go a long way toward helping the person learn to manage their symptoms, control their disorder, and live a happier and more comfortable life.
Here are six types of therapy for anxiety disorders.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a broad term, and there are a few specific types of cognitive-behavioral therapy that may be desirable for someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder. But a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy is often used for many of the more recognizable anxiety disorders including social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.
The idea behind cognitive behavioral therapy is that the problem that the sufferer is experiencing is caused by their thoughts, not by their circumstances. So the goal is to change their thoughts – specifically to identify negative thoughts and unhelpful and ineffective behavior patterns based on those thoughts and replace them with reality-based thinking and effective and helpful coping mechanisms.
This often involved replacing all-or-nothing thinking with more nuanced thinking. Instead of thinking that things are all good or all bad, anxiety sufferers learning CBT learn to recognize shades of grey in each situation. They learn to identify what triggers their anxiety and apply better-coping skills to manage the effects of those triggers.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of CBT. While it was originally developed for use by people who have a borderline personality disorder, it’s also useful for some who suffer from anxiety. It teaches some core skills, including interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and mindfulness.
The word dialectal concerns opposition, and one of the things that DBT teaches is how to hold seemingly opposing viewpoints, like accepting yourself with your anxiety, while also working to change your anxiety. Essentially, that means acknowledging and accepting yourself for who you are and loving yourself as you are today while still working to change things that can be changed to improve your quality of life.
Exposure therapy is another type of CBT, and it is very effectively used to treat some types of anxiety disorders, including phobias, social anxiety, and PTSD. It is what it sounds like – therapy that involves exposing yourself to things that trigger anxiety.
Of course, the exposure is not meant to be done in a way that causes more trauma. Instead, the trigger is introduced slowly and under safe conditions while the patient builds up a sensitization to the trigger. Patients are taught relaxation techniques that can help them cope in triggering situations. They may start by imagining an exposure and work their way up to real or virtual exposure to the trigger.
Psychoanalysis was the type of therapy pioneered by Freud. It’s intensive and can take years of work, but it may be useful for some anxiety patients.
Basically, psychoanalytic theory suggests that anxieties are caused by unconscious conflict, so you and your therapist must explore your thoughts, dreams, fears, and desires in-depth in order to uncover the conflicts and patterns of thinking that cause the symptoms. The purpose is to resolve the unconscious conflicts, understand yourself, and ultimately reduce your anxiety.
For those who live with social anxiety disorders, their disorder primarily relates to how they deal with other people in given situations. So, learning to better manage interpersonal situations can be helpful in resolving those anxieties. They can do this with interpersonal therapy.
This type of therapy involves identifying interpersonal issues like difficulty communicating, grief, or conflict, then learning about the healthy ways to express yourself in these situations and navigate them. The result should be a more confident and less anxious feeling when it comes to social situations.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Therapy often involves finding ways to resolve or change or better navigate your circumstances, but there are things that you just have no control over or only have very limited control over. When this is a factor in an anxiety disorder, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) may be useful for you.
ACT involves learning to accept stressors that can’t be helped and learning behavior-changing and commitment strategies that help navigate the symptoms of those stressors. It shares some similarities with CBT and can be very useful for some anxiety sufferers.
Anxiety disorders can be difficult to live with, but with the right kind of therapy, as well as medications if appropriate, people who have anxiety disorders can not only learn to manage their disorders but also thrive and enjoy life. If you or someone you love is suffering from an anxiety disorder, The Heights can provide you with helpful resources.