The 2 Most Effective Treatment Options for Anxiety

Treatment Options for Anxiety

Although anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the U.S., the 40 million people who struggle with it can tell you it’s much more than being stressed out and worried about something. With symptoms that range from apprehension, fear, worry, and dread to chest pain, a racing heart, dizziness, and chronic muscle tension, untreated anxiety disorders can significantly interfere with the ability to achieve goals, be socially engaged, and fully enjoy life.

Fortunately, there are some very effective therapeutic treatment options that can make a world of difference in reducing or eliminating symptoms. Here are two of the most notable ones.

There are some very effective therapeutic treatment options that can make a world of difference in reducing or eliminating anxiety symptoms. Some of the most effective therapies are EMDR and CBT. Click To Tweet

TREATING ANXIETY WITH EMDR

Otherwise known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, this method of treatment is commonly used for posttraumatic stress disorder. However, EMDR can also be very effective for other disorders, including anxiety conditions. A systematic review published in Frontiers in Psychology found that multiple studies showed EMDR is helpful for people who have generalized or social anxiety disorders, panic disorder, and agoraphobia, as well as other phobic conditions.

Unlike most types of psychotherapy, EMDR does not require as much talking about frightening, painful, or anxiety-provoking memories—although these issues are certainly addressed. After building rapport and discussing present concerns with a psychotherapist, usually over the course of a few sessions, the EMDR phase of treatment will begin. This method involves thinking about a specific experience while you either hold a pulsating device in each hand or watch a therapist move two fingers back and forth while you visually track the movements.

This technique, known as bilateral (both sides) hemispheric stimulation, reduces the emotional charge of a memory that has gotten “stuck” in the brain. People often find significant relief from their anxiety symptoms, sometimes after just a few sessions.

TREATING ANXIETY WITH COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most well-studied therapeutic modalities and has been found to be effective for a wide array of mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders. Research has shown it can be very useful for reducing symptoms of worry that plague this condition. The basic premise of CBT is that our thoughts and beliefs directly impact our emotions, which in turn leads to behavior choices. In other words, what we think about a situation directly affects the way we feel about it, and then what we do in response to those feelings.

But here’s the catch. Just because we think a certain way about an event, doesn’t mean it’s true. You don’t have to believe every thought you have. Sometimes our thoughts lie to us and make us miserable. However, most people go with the first thing that pops into their head in response to something, and they don’t really consider alternative explanations. And multiple people will view the same objective event in different ways based on their own automatic thoughts. For those who struggle with anxiety disorders, these thoughts usually cause distressing and fearful emotions such as feeling nervous, scared, or worried.

HOW CBT CALMS ANXIOUS THOUGHTS

During CBT treatment, a therapist will help you identify the thoughts that drive anxiety symptoms, and one at a time, practice examining them to discover alternative ways of thinking about particular situations. This process isn’t intended to change a negative experience into a positive one, but rather it is about learning to have more accurate and realistic thoughts in response to something.

Borrowing from CBT and the works of Byron Katie, you can eliminate the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that bring you down and exacerbate mental health symptoms. Here’s an example of how this works:

Anxiety-provoking situation: You have been tasked at work to lead a group presentation.

ANT: I will look like a complete idiot and failure if I screw this up in any way. (thus causing triggering an anxious response in your mind)

With this ANT in mind, ask yourself the following 5 questions:

  1. Is it true? Is it true that if you make any mistakes in the presentation everyone will think you’re a complete idiot and failure?
  2. Is it absolutely true—with 100% certainty?
  3. How do you feel when you have the thought that making any mistakes will be totally demoralizing and catastrophic for you?
  4. How would you feel if you didn’t have that thought?
  5. For this last question, turn around the ANT to its opposite: If I make any mistakes, my colleagues are not going to suddenly see me as some kind of foolish failure. Everyone makes mistakes at times. Is this new thought more accurate than the ANT that made you feel so anxious about having to give the presentation?

Working through these 5 questions with the ANTs that elevate anxiety requires some practice, so try it whenever you have a thought that makes you feel anxious, worried, or fearful. With practice, you will find that questioning your thoughts teaches you to think more accurately, which then reduces the distress caused by unchallenged automatic negative thoughts.

LIFESTYLE STRATEGIES TO HELP REDUCE ANXIETY

In addition to the therapies described above, there are some things you can do to help minimize anxious moments in day-to-day life. They won’t cost you a thing but can make a big difference in how you feel.

Exercise regularly.

Not only is this a great way to get your mind off your worries and lift your spirits, but it also helps lower stress hormones like cortisol which tend to be higher in those who struggle with anxiety.

Watch what you eat.

Some comfort foods—think sugar and high-glycemic foods—make you feel good at the moment, but they increase anxiety in the long run. This is because they rapidly increase your blood sugar level, but later cause it to crash—and when it does, it can lead to feeling jittery, irritable, and fatigued. In addition, research has found that artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, can elevate cortisol and trigger anxiety symptoms.

Practice belly breathing.

Also called diaphragmatic breathing, this simple strategy is a very effective way to mitigate anxious feelings. To discern the difference between breathing with your diaphragm, rather than your chest (which most people do when they feel nervous), put your hand on your belly and as you inhale, notice that your hand moves out and when you exhale it moves in toward your spine. Once you get the hang of it, practice this pattern:

  • Inhale for 3 to 4 seconds, pause
  • Exhale for 6 to 8 seconds, pause
  • Repeat 10 times

This type of breathing is a natural way to calm your nervous system anywhere, at any time.

There’s no question that suffering from anxiety can feel overwhelming and uncontrollable, and without effective treatment, it can lead to many challenges in life. However, taking the needed steps to reach out to a licensed mental health practitioner to help you work through your symptoms often opens the door to feeling healthier and more balanced, so that everyday living can become more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Anxiety, panic disorders, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

6 Comments »

  1. As a counselor, I practice rational living therapy which is a kind of CBT based on stoicism. My clients have really found it helpful as they get to the core assumptions related to their “ants” and can really break free from them. It’s a more effective way of treating the ANTS for sure. 💕

    Comment by Meli — October 21, 2022 @ 5:31 AM

  2. The bad part is if someone is not able to work and doesn’t have any money they can’t get the help they need

    Comment by Brenda Harris — October 21, 2022 @ 10:22 AM

  3. Do you believe in acupuncture

    Comment by Beverly — October 21, 2022 @ 12:15 PM

  4. It's just amazing to me how any so called "branch of medicine" can peddle the same useless treatments for 60 years. If these are "brain" problems, when will you find something that actually fixes the problem? Talking to someone is not going to fix anything – at most it will provide some temporary relief from what the broken brain is doing. No cure, nothing but a ridiculously over-priced "neuro-balm."

    Comment by Mike Roberts — October 22, 2022 @ 11:14 AM

  5. That paragraph about automatic thoughts really helped me right now. I'm worried my son went out four days in a row. I know he will find another job to keep him busy two months break from his
    Perm job. I was thinking the opposite. Thank you. Now I have to stop. 5 hrs on this phone and Facebook gives me more anxiety. Take a break.

    Comment by Donna Hopcraft — October 30, 2022 @ 6:48 PM

  6. It's so sad that my dearest friend has been hampered by debilitating anxiety, which has prevented her from pursuing her goals. Her personal and professional lives are being impacted by her overwhelming mood. Anyway, I highly advise her to seek out anxiety treatment so that she may recover control and develop the confidence she needs to succeed. Thanks for letting us know, by the way, during CBT therapy, a therapist will assist you in identifying the ideas that fuel anxiety symptoms and practice exploring each one one at a time to find alternate ways of thinking about certain scenarios. https://www.katielawrencecounseling.com/anxiety-therapy

    Comment by Lily Bridgers — October 28, 2023 @ 5:21 PM

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