Treating Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are chronic conditions that can cause persistent emotional and physical symptoms. Unmanaged, comorbid, or undiagnosed anxiety disorders can cause symptoms that significantly impact your quality of life.
When Should You Get Help?
Are your anxiety symptoms more frequent, more severe? Do your anxiety symptoms cause you distress? Is it hard for you to complete daily activities because of your anxiety? If you answered yes, you should consult with your healthcare provider or a mental health practitioner about managing your anxiety.1.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience anxiety symptoms with thoughts or feelings of self-harm or debilitating symptoms that don’t respond to medication.
How Can You Treat Anxiety Disorders?
Traditionally, anxiety disorders respond to psychotherapy, drugs/medication, or a combination of the two.
- Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy includes interventions like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. CBT, or talk therapy, is a therapeutic approach that focuses on changing negative thought processes 2 Together, these services help treat your anxiety disorder by changing your thoughts and maladaptive behaviors and reducing your response to triggers 3.
- Drug Therapies. Healthcare providers use different drugs like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and antidepressants to treat anxiety disorders 4.
When Should You Use Medication?
If you experience more frequent or complicated anxiety symptoms, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about medication to help you manage your symptoms 1. Sometimes, you may need more than one medication to manage your anxiety.
- Antidepressants. Antidepressants affect your brain’s neurotransmitters (chemicals that send messages throughout your body) that affect and regulate your mood 1.
- SSRIs. SSRIs are a type of antidepressant medication that increases mood-enhancing chemicals in your brain by preventing the brain from reabsorbing released serotonin.
- SNRIs. SNRIs are another type of antidepressant that increases serotonin levels in your brain. SNRIs are different from SSRIs because they prevent your brain from reabsorbing more than one chemical messenger 1.
- Sedatives. Sedatives work by lowering your brain’s activity and creating a calm internal state 3
- Antihistamines. Antihistamines affect your serotonin levels. High and low levels are both known to trigger anxiety 3.
Take your anxiety medications with caution. As with any drug, psychotherapies can cause side effects that look different in different people. Possible side effects include headache, nausea, weight gain, dry mouth, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction. Taking other medications or substances with your anxiety medications can cause harmful interactions, make your medication less effective, or be fatal. Speak with your healthcare provider about your treatment options to learn more about possible interactions 3.