Different therapeutic techniques have been developed to treat anxiety and have evolved over time from early psychoanalytic approaches to the newest cognitive-behavioral therapies.

Anxiety If you are living with anxiety, therapy can be an effective treatment that may help relieve your symptoms in a short period of time. However, that does not mean that therapy does not involve work on your part; most therapy involves homework and requires you to learn how to apply what you learn on your own once you complete the course of treatment.

Types of Anxiety Disorders Treated by Therapy

A variety of different types of anxiety disorder are treated with therapeutic approaches. Some of these include the following:

Regardless of the specific disorder, the underlying causes often follow similar patterns. People with anxiety tend to react to unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and situations in a more extreme way and may try to manage those reactions by avoiding triggers. Unfortunately, this type of avoidance only serves to reinforce fears and worries. Most modern types of therapy address negative thinking and avoidance to help you manage anxiety.

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Types of Therapy for Anxiety

The goal of all types of therapy for anxiety is to help you learn how to overcome your fear and calm your emotional reactions. This is true whether you are taking part in individual or group therapy; in fact, most of the types of therapy listed below may take part one-on-one or in a group setting.3

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most widely-used therapy for anxiety disorders. It’s a catch-all phrase for therapies that share common characteristics. Research has found it to be effective in treating it can effectively treat SAD, GAD, phobias, and panic disorders, among other conditions.4

As its name suggests, CBT is a combination of two therapeutic approaches:

  • Cognitive therapy examines how negative thoughts, or cognitions, contribute to anxiety
  • Behavior therapy examines how you behave and react in situations that trigger anxiety

The premise of CBT is that your thoughts—not your current situation—affect how you feel and subsequently behave. So, the goal of CBT is to change the thoughts and behaviors that trigger or worsen your anxiety. So, by changing how you think and subsequently behave the goal of CBT is to identify and correct these negative thoughts and replace them with more positive perceptions.

This process is best done with a therapist because it can be hard to identify your own irrational thoughts. A therapist can ask, “What were you thinking before you started feeling anxious?” This will often help you to start seeing your thoughts in terms of the patterns that they follow.

What to Expect From Anxiety Therapy

A common misunderstanding about therapy is that you’ll immediately start to feel better. Sometimes this is the case. But much of the time, you feel worse before you start feeling better. Surprisingly, feeling worse is often a sign of progress. And, if you think about it that makes sense.

When you make the decision to enter into therapy, it’s often because you haven’t been able to work through your anxiety on your own. Therapy involves exploring your anxiety and the reasons behind it in a deeper, more meaningful way. This can cause a temporary spike in your anxiety.

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How to Make the Most of Therapy

It’s true that you will often feel worse before you feel better when trying to make a change. Being in therapy for anxiety is no exception. However, if you are persistent, you should see improvement.

Here are a few ways to make the most of your therapy—and actually see some results:

  • Don’t pretend to be okay
  • Ask questions
  • Tell your therapist anything and everything
  • Do the work outside your sessions
  • Focus on your goals
  • Practice healthy lifestyle choices
  • Make sure you have a social support system
  • Reduce stress in your life that makes your anxiety worse

In this way, you can see that putting in an effort and being present throughout the therapy process will have the biggest impact on how well it works for you.

When to See a Therapist for Anxiety

If you are experiencing anxiety that is interfering with different areas of your life, it is important to speak to a doctor. Only a medical or mental health professional can assess your symptoms to determine if they warrant a diagnosis and treatment. While worry is transient, clinical anxiety is a problem not likely to go away on its own.

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