6 effective treatments against anxiety
Feeling anxiety is totally normal, and people can experience it in our daily life in multiple situations. For example, just before an examination when nerves are on the surface or when we can not fall asleep because we must make an important decision.
Anxiety is a normal and adaptive reaction that appears in situations of stress or uncertainty . However, when anxiety causes functional deterioration, affects different areas of our life (interpersonal relationships, work, school ...) and causes great discomfort and suffering, then it is possible that it is an anxiety disorder. In this case it is necessary to go to psychological therapy.
- Related article: "The 7 types of anxiety (causes and symptoms)"
Symptoms of anxiety disorders
Negative anxiety can manifest itself for different reasons, since there are different types of anxiety disorders. Some people are very afraid to speak in public (social phobia) and, therefore,, tend to avoid situations in which they are exposed to this discomfort .
Others have irrational and catastrophic thoughts almost daily about events that have not happened and that are very unlikely to happen (generalized anxiety disorder), and others feel great discomfort when reliving a traumatic event of the past (post-traumatic stress disorder). Regardless of the type of anxiety, some characteristic symptoms of this disorder are:
- Intense and irrational fear.
- Excessive worries
- Dizziness, sweating, muscle tension, shortness of breath, dry mouth or fatigue.
- Avoidance of feared situations.
- Repetitive thoughts and behavior
- Traumatic events are relived.
- Difficulties to sleep.
Treatments for anxiety
If you think you are one of those people who suffer from an anxiety disorder, you should know that you are not alone, because this is a very common problem. Since there are different types of anxiety disorder, each one has a specific treatment.
However, psychologists can provide a series of techniques that help improve anxiety states , but the problem does not subside if you do not put on your part. It is your responsibility to implement certain habits and strategies in your life to make anxiety stop being a problem.
If you want to know what treatments are applied in the therapeutic sessions, below you can find a list with the most relevant and highlighted:
1. Relaxation techniques
Our body reacts to thoughts of anxiety with muscular tension and a series of physiological reactions. When an anxious person interprets a situation as threatening, the fight-and-flight response is activated, a series of hormones are released and the autonomic nervous system prepares the individual to respond to a dangerous situation.
Relaxation techniques have the objective of teaching individuals to relax, to learn to breathe correctly and to decrease physiological activation. There are various types of relaxation techniques, for example, Jacobson's progressive muscle relaxation technique or Schultz's autogenic training.
2. Exhibition techniques
Anxiety is not a pleasant sensation, so people who suffer from this disorder try to avoid situations that produce discomfort. A very frequent way of doing this is to get away from the situation or the anxious stimulus . If someone is afraid to speak in public they can avoid attending their best friend's wedding to avoid giving a speech in front of all the attendees. If someone is afraid of flying, they can drive for days to avoid getting on a plane.
Exposure therapy, as the name suggests, involves exposing the patient to feared situations or objects . The idea is that through repeated exposures, it will acquire a sense of control over anxiety, and the situation will tend to disappear. Expository techniques are used in cases of phobias and other anxiety disorders (for example, obsessive-compulsive disorder), and are characterized by the fact that the patient must confront the feared stimulus until the anxiety is reduced by habituation.
Thanks to this type of techniques it is possible to prevent escape or avoidance from becoming a safety response. To carry it out, they usually establish a hierarchy of feared stimuli, so that the patient can go little by little approaching these stimuli until they reach extinction. These types of techniques can be carried out both live and in an imaginary way. Nowadays, thanks to new technologies, it is possible to perform these techniques through Virtual Reality . Exposure therapy can be used alone, or it can be done as part of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
3. Systematic desensitization
Instead of facing the dreaded situation or object immediately, It is possible that the treatment and exposure starts with a situation that is only slightly threatening , to go working little by little until the objective. This approach, characterized by going step by step, is called systematic desensitization. Systematic desensitization allows you to gradually challenge fears, build confidence and master the skills to control panic.
Systematic desensitization is similar to expository techniques (and for some authors it is included within these). However, there are some differences between both treatments. While in expository techniques habituation is used to overcome anxiety, in systematic desensitization countercondicionamiento is used, that is, the substitution of a response that produces anxiety, for another incompatible with it. In systematic desensitization the approximation to the stimulus occurs gradually, but in the exposure technique the rate of approach depends on the time available, the disposition of the patient and the habituation rate.
Systematic desensitization includes three parts:
- Learn relaxation skills , and, once the patient faces their fears, use these relaxation techniques to reduce their anxiety response and stimulate relaxation.
- Make a list step by step . 10 to 20 fear situations are selected to progress to the final goal. For example, if what you want is to overcome the fear of flying, the first step may be to look at pictures of airplanes.
- Work the steps under the guidance of the therapist . The patient is exposed to the feared situation and replaces anxiety with the techniques learned.
4. Cognitive restructuring
Cognitive restructuring is based on the idea that the way we feel, behave and respond to situations based on our way of thinking, so this technique tries to modify patterns of thinking and dysfunctional beliefs.
Cognitive restructuring derives from cognitive therapy (but is also used in cognitive behavioral therapy) that can help people identify and challenge thought patterns and beliefs that cause anxiety. The purpose of this technique is the modification of the patient's thinking schemes thanks to different methods.
5. Pharmacological techniques
In some cases it is convenient to complement the psychological treatment with a pharmacological treatment , especially in those situations in which it is necessary to reduce the symptoms quickly, as for example, to treat a panic attack.
However, medications must be combined with different cognitive and behavioral techniques and must be replaced little by little by them. Drugs can create addiction and intolerance, so it is necessary to be cautious in their consumption and self-medication should be avoided. In the treatment of anxiety, two types of drugs are usually used: anxiolytics and antidepressants.
Mindfulness belongs to third-generation psychological therapies. One of the most used programs for the treatment of anxiety disorders is the MBCT (Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) or Cognitive Therapy based on Mindfulness. The program combines meditation with the acquisition of practical skills that characterize cognitive therapy , as the interruption of thought patterns that lead to anxious symptoms.
Mindfulness, more than a set of techniques, is a philosophy that focuses on self-acceptance, compassion, focusing on the here and now, and adopting a non-judgmental mentality. It is based on the idea that it is not events that provoke anxiety, but how we interpret them and how we deal with them. It is not about eliminating anxiety but about accepting it, because by not resisting, the anxious symptomatology is reduced.
Go to psychotherapy, the best option to overcome anxiety
Regarding the treatment of anxiety disorders, science shows that psychotherapy is generally the most effective option. The therapy helps the patient to discover the underlying causes of their worries and fears; it allows you to learn to relax and look at situations from a new perspective, and gives you the possibility to develop better coping and problem solving skills. Therapy facilitates the tools to overcome anxiety and teaches how to use them.
The duration of treatment will depend on the type and severity of the anxiety disorder. However, many anxiety therapies are relatively short, because the vast majority of people improve at 8-10 therapeutic sessions
Mensalus Institute: experts in psychotherapy
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder and you are interested in putting a solution to this situation that is affecting you, the Center of Psychology Mensalus Institute has a team of experts in the treatment of this type of problem.From an integrative approach and with a multidisciplinary team, offers individual therapy sessions in which the relaxation techniques, cognitive restructuring, systematic desensitization and training in specific skills, among others, to overcome the disorder.
It also offers family therapy sessions, very useful for treatment in children, because the family is trained to act as a co-therapist. In cases where it is necessary, it is complemented with pharmacological treatment, Mensalus has a team of psychiatrists who work in coordination with psychologists to carry out a joint diagnosis and achieve a successful treatment.
- If you want more information, you can find the contact information of the Mensalus Institute Psychology Center in this link.