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Are There Different Types of Anxiety Therapy?

By Advekit

Posted on June 18, 2019

If you experience persistent apprehension, worry, or angst on a regular basis, you may be suffering from anxiety. Don’t worry, you’re not alone—more than 40,000,000 Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. And yet, only 36% seek therapy for anxiety.


Anxiety therapy

Anxiety is misunderstood by many, and there’s no reason why you should suffer the effects of anxiety alone. There are different anxiety therapy treatment options that can help you manage this condition. Below, we’ll discuss the most common treatments available for you. 

 

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

It’s important to understand the difference between feeling anxious periodically and having chronic and ongoing anxiety. If you have an anxiety disorder, the following symptoms will manifest and reappear for long periods of time. Common symptoms are:

 

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom.
  • Having an increased heart rate.
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation).
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.
  • Feeling weak or tired regularly.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Having trouble sleeping.
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems.
  • Having difficulty controlling worry.
  • Having the urge to avoid anything that triggers anxiety.

 

Consequences of Anxiety Disorders

 

Long-held anxiety can lead to a host of health and social issues, including:

 

  • Depression or other mental health struggles.
  • Digestive or bowel problems.
  • Headaches and chronic pain.
  • Poor quality of life.
  • Problems at home, work, with friends and family.
  • Problems functioning at school or work.
  • Social isolation.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia).

 

Risk Factors That Increase The Risk of Developing an Anxiety Disorder

 

While the exact reasons why you might develop anxiety remain unknown, studies show that there are several factors that can increase the chance of you developing one. Risk factors for anxiety are: 

 

  • Trauma – traumatic events that were experienced or witnessed, especially those during childhood, dramatically increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. 
  • Drugs and alcohol – substances tend to exacerbate underlying mental health issues. While they may function as a temporary salve, they lessen a person’s ability to cope or deal with anxiety without the assistance of the substances. 
  • Genetics – anxiety disorders often run in families. If you have a parent or grandparent who suffers from anxiety, then you might have a higher predisposition to develop it. 

 

Different Types of Anxiety Therapy 

 

Today, there are various therapies a person can use to improve their situation. These include:

 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

 

CBT is one of the most popular and effective methods of treatment for anxiety disorders. It emphasizes pinpointing, understanding, and then altering harmful thinking or behavioral patterns. CBT therapy will typically run for three to four months, depending on the severity of the case and the progress that’s made.

 

It’s a hands-on practical form of therapy that focuses on problem-solving for those suffering from anxiety. It allows you to be an active participant in your own recovery. Emphasis is placed on learning coping skills and understanding how to have control over your thoughts and actions. Studies show “that over 60% of those who undergo CBT experience substantial improvements in anxiety symptoms.” 

 

CBT is an active form of therapy and may include:

 

  • Keeping a journal to track your moods, feelings, and general anxiety levels. This helps measure the frequency and seriousness of anxiety attacks and gives you a benchmark to better understand how to react. 
  • Learning skills that are applied to your daily life to lessen the effects of anxiety. These skills eventually become habits and will help you cope with anxiety symptoms before they appear.
  • Confronting your anxieties. 

 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

 

ACT focuses on enabling you to use your words to handle the feelings and thoughts in your head. It emphasizes accepting the thoughts running through your mind instead of fighting them in order to gain greater mental fitness. This live-in-the-moment attitude is meant to prevent using avoidance as an ineffective means of coping with anxiety. Instead, a mental health professional will encourage you to:

 

  • Accept your past and current thoughts.
  • Look at them in a different light.
  • Cultivate better insights about your personal values.
  • Pledge to change necessary behaviors. 

 

Unlike CBT, ACT doesn’t focus on cutting down the severity or frequency of bad thoughts or emotions. Instead, its intention is to help you let go of the need to control those thoughts or emotions in lieu of being present in your own life. 

 

Exposure Therapy (ET)

 

ET is a branch of CBT that focuses on desensitizing you to fears, phobias, and anxieties by exposure to them. ET was created to help you learn to confront your fears and look them dead in the eye, rather than running or cowering from them. Fear is often the underlying reason why people avoid certain activities, situations, or people. Avoidance often allows the problem to fester and fears to gain even more power over you. 

 

In Exposure  Therapy, therapists create a safe space in which you’ll be exposed to the aspects of life that you tend to fear and avoid. Common strategies include

 

  • Real-time exposure.
  • Imaginal exposure.
  • Virtual reality exposure.
  • Interoceptive exposure.
  • Graded exposure.
  • Flooding.
  • Systematic desensitization.
  • Habituation.
  • Extinction.
  • Self-efficacy.
  • Emotional processing.

 

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

 

IPT is a short-term, focused approach to treating anxiety. It typically lasts 12 to 16 sessions which are meant to collect information on your current relationships. The focus on interpersonal relationships is intended to help you change relationship patterns, behaviors, or maladaptive thoughts that are related to others in your life. It’s less focused on your cognitive behavior and more focused on how others impact you. 

 

Strategies and therapies are based upon your social history, close relationships, and any changes in patterns or expectations. 

 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

 

DBT is a form of therapy that combines CBT techniques with thoughts and practices drawn from Eastern thought and meditation. It’s a derivative of an Eastern thought process known as dialectics, which hinges upon the concept of opposites, and that change occurs when one force becomes stronger than the other. A mental health professional will help you make three key assumptions:

 

  • Everything is connected. 
  • Change is perpetual and inexorable. 
  • Opposites can be used to get a clearer understanding of what is true.

 

In DBT, you and your therapist work to find a balance to create patterns of positive change. It consists of three forms of therapy:

 

  • Classroom group therapy – you and a group are taught behavioral skills for interpersonal effectiveness, role play, and are assigned homework.
  • One-on-one therapy – you and your therapist strategize ways to apply learned behavioral skills to your own life and specific obstacles. 
  • Phone coaching – when you are in the middle of a difficult situation or panic attack, you call your therapist and they guide you to work through the situation.

 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

 

Contrary to most forms of talk therapy, EMDR focuses less on a traumatic event and more on the unpleasant emotions and symptoms that result from it. While it’s effective for some cases of anxiety, it can be incredibly helpful for individuals who have PTSD. 

 

Pharmacological Therapy 

 

Your therapist may prescribe you medication to assist with the alleviation of certain symptoms. Typically, this is done in conjunction with your standard discussion therapies for the best results. Common medications include:

 

  • Benzodiazepinesbenzos affect neurotransmitters in the brain. Specifically, they affect the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter, which is responsible for suppressing nerve activity. Benzos enhance GABA to reduce nerve activity and lower anxious responses. These drugs can be addictive and have serious health ramifications so if you are assigned benzos, don’t exceed your doctor’s recommended course of action. 
  • Antidepressantsselective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) decrease anxiety and depression by increasing the brain’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps facilitate the transmission of signals between brain cells. The more serotonin available, the clearer the signaling.
  • Beta-blockers – also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, beta-blockers help reduce blood pressure by blocking epinephrine’s (adrenalin) effects. They help you to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as tremors, increased heartbeat, or palpitations.

 

Getting Treatment For Mental Illness

 

You don’t have to suffer from an anxiety disorder alone. Anxiety is treatable. With Advekit, you can get connected to the proper form of treatment and find the right match for a therapist near you. The therapist you’re paired with will help determine the proper treatment course for you.

 

Get Matched →

 

Sources

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Facts and Statistics. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Mayo Clinic. Anxiety Disorders. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961

UNC Department of Psychology. Effective Treatments for Anxiety. https://clinic.unc.edu/anxiety-clinic/for-consumers/effective-treatments-for-anxiety/

American Psychological Association. What is Exposure Therapy? https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/exposure-therapy

Medical News Today. Benefits and Risks of Benzodiazepines. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262809.php

Mayo Clinic. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/ssris/art-20044825

 


Reviewed By

Alison LaSov, LMFT

blog-reviewer

Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.

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