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Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences at times. Many people feel anxious or nervous when faced with a problem. Anxiety disorders, however, are different because they can cause so much stress that it interferes with a person’s daily functioning. This disorder is a severe mental illness. Worry and fear are constant, overwhelming, and can be crippling.

When Is Anxiety a Problem?

If you’re experiencing it daily, then anxiety is more than just a normal emotion. Likewise, if you’re seeing negative physical and mental effects manifest from the anxiety, this is a strong indicator of an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. It’s not natural or healthy to have intense anxiety in response to situations that don’t warrant such an extreme reaction, and leaving this type of anxiety unaddressed can be detrimental to your long-term well-being.

What are common anxiety disorders?

Panic disorder
Feelings of terror strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Other symptoms include sweating, chest pain, palpitations, and a feeling as if they are “going crazy.”

‍Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
These constant thoughts or fears cause people to perform certain rituals or routines. The chronic thoughts are called obsessions, and the rituals are called compulsions.

‍Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
This occurs after a traumatic event, such as an assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. Sufferers have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event and eventually become emotionally numb.

‍Social anxiety disorder
This involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about social situations. It consists of a fear of being judged by others or behaving in an embarrassing way that might lead to ridicule.

A phobia is an intense fear of an object or situation, such as snakes, heights, or flying. The level of fear is usually disproportionate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.

Generalized anxiety disorder
This involves excessive, unrealistic worry and stress, even if there is little or nothing to bring on the anxiety.

What Are the Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder?

Symptoms vary according to the anxiety disorder, but generally, symptoms include:

  • Cold or sweaty hands or feet
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Inability to stay still or feel calm
  • Muscles tension
  • Nausea
  • Nightmare
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Palpitations
  • Problems sleeping or eating
  • Repetitive thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic experiences
  • Ritualistic behaviors (i.e., hand washing)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts

How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed?

There are no laboratory tests to diagnose anxiety disorders. If no physical illness is found, the patient may be referred to a mental health professional who is trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. These professionals use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for an anxiety disorder.

The doctor bases diagnosis on the intensity and duration of symptoms, including problems with daily functioning due to the symptoms and the doctor’s observation of the patient’s demeanor and behavior. The doctor determines if the patient’s symptoms and degree of dysfunction signify a specific anxiety disorder.

How Are Anxiety Disorders Treated?

Medication: These can reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders and include anti-depressants or anxiety-reducing drugs.

‍Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy addresses the emotional response to mental illness. Trained mental health professionals assist patients by talking through strategies for understanding and dealing with the disorder.

‍Cognitive-behavioral therapy: People with anxiety disorders participate in this type of psychotherapy, whereby the person learns to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to anxious feelings.

Dietary and lifestyle changes: Sometimes, people don’t realize how their lifestyle impacts their mental health. Having a poor diet high in sugar and carbs, getting too little sleep, overworking, not managing stress, and a sedentary lifestyle are all major contributors to poor mental health and anxiety. Making the necessary adjustments to these areas of your life can significantly benefit you.

Relaxation therapy: Relaxation therapies focus on grounding a person when they experience anxiety and anxiety-related emotions. Some techniques taught in these types of treatment include breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation.


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective approach to co-existing anxiety disorders and addiction. CBT helps reduce symptoms of mental health disorders by teaching valuable skills like healthy coping and grounding. By doing so, the patient can slowly integrate back into past hobbies or activities that anxiety has caused them to avoid.

The 3-3-3 rule is a method designed to ground an individual in moments of heightened anxiety. It works like this: Name three things you can see, name three things you can hear, and move three different body parts. These tasks help to bring you back to reality and into the moment rather than spiraling from anxious thoughts and emotions.

People with anxiety disorders may self-medicate when they haven’t yet been taught proper, healthy coping methods. In one 2024 research study, it was found that 22% of people with anxiety disorder reported self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

Self-medicating isn’t always through substances; people may use other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as self-harm, isolation, or excessive internet use.

Psychotherapy is unique to the person experiencing it, and how long you’ll need to participate depends on your particular situation, goals, and rate of progress. On average, patients start seeing the benefits after 8 to 10 sessions on a weekly basis.

Some patients may continue psychotherapy for six months, while others may need as long as two years.

Healthy foods full of fiber, protein, and healthy carbs are best for anxiety. These include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean meats. Avoid sugary, processed foods that will spike blood sugar levels and contribute to other physical symptoms of anxiety like headaches and stomach pain.

Anxiety itself is an emotion people feel. Normally, anxious feelings come and go as a response to some experiences or events. When you experience high levels of anxiety in response to experiences or events that don’t seem appropriate for such a response or that are prolonged or consistent, this can indicate an anxiety disorder. If left untreated, anxiety disorders can be long-term and have worsening symptoms.

Proper therapy and medication management can significantly reduce the effects of an anxiety disorder.

Drinking water boosts serotonin production, contributing to an elevated mood and relaxation. When you’re dehydrated, your body is unable to make an adequate amount of serotonin, which can lead to unstable moods and heightened anxiety.