What Treatments for Anxiety Are Available?
Anxiety disorders have multiple kinds of treatments. Everything from therapy and medications to support groups and proven stress management techniques can help people successfully manage their anxiety disorder.
Most treatment options for anxiety will involve talk therapy, sometimes referred to as psychotherapy.
Talk therapy is an effective method of treating people with a broad variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety.
Sessions may be held solo, with parents or families, or in a group setting. By working directly with a therapist, patients can learn to better control their symptoms of anxiety.
During therapy sessions, proven treatment methods are used. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) with exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are common evidence-based therapies for pediatric anxiety.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy With Exposure and Response Prevention
One of the most effective approaches to treat anxiety disorders is cognitive behavior therapy with ERP.
CBT is a talk therapy that helps children learn the connection among their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and tools to manage them. With exposure and response prevention, they learn to gradually face their fears and that they can manage the challenging experiences.
These therapies help the patient identify and change their negative thought patterns. CBT may also teach social skills, including lessening social anxieties.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
ACT is a behavioral therapy that combines self-acceptance and mindfulness with a commitment to change according to one’s values.
This helps achieve psychological flexibility—meaning that regardless of the anxiety the patient is facing, they can adapt and stay present in the moment.
In ACT, the patient commits to addressing anxieties head-on instead of avoiding them and helps the patient embrace challenging moments.
Often used to treat depression, IPT is a shorter-term treatment for anxiety. In IPT, the patients learn to understand their underlying interpersonal issues to better express their emotions.
Some of the interpersonal issues often addressed are changes in social environments, conflict with loved ones, and difficulties at school. IPT can help patients improve their communication and relatability to others.
Doctors can prescribe different types of medications to treat anxiety. Antianxiety medications reduce the symptoms experienced with anxiety, panic attacks, extreme worry, or fear.
One evidence-based class of medication is known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. They can relieve anxiety symptoms and reduce depression symptoms, which often coincide with anxiety disorders.
Many support groups exist, either in person or virtually, that help people with anxiety disorders.
Whether a self-help group or support group, it’s suggested that a doctor provide recommendations before proceeding with support groups to ensure children’s health and safety.
Stress Management Techniques
Stress management is especially important for those with anxiety disorders. Meditation and coping strategies help the individual to calm themselves, which can enhance therapy’s effects.
Coping strategies and meditation techniques include:
- Taking time out of your day to unwind
- Eating nutritious meals and limiting caffeine intake
- Exercise, including yoga
- Healthy sleeping patterns, including less screen time before bed
- Deep breathing exercises
- Learning your triggers
- Talking and sharing experiences with others
- Going to a physician or therapist to talk about stress-lowering strategies
How Is Anxiety Diagnosed?
Anxiety should be diagnosed by trained, licensed clinicians, such as a mental health professional or pediatrician.
Depending on symptoms, a health care provider may run routine lab tests during the initial evaluation to rule out other possible causes of symptoms. In some instances, x-rays, scans, or other imaging studies may be required.
The provider may ask the child and/or parent(s) a series of questions from a standardized questionnaire or may have them complete a self-assessment of symptoms.
Anxiety may be diagnosed alongside additional conditions, as GAD in particular has a high rate of other conditions occurring with it.
In some cases, major depression, substance misuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder may also be present. If this is the case, additional screenings and treatment may be required.
Anxiety Is Treatable—There Is Hope!
Anxiety disorders are so much more common than you may think. If you feel that you may have anxiety or think your child has anxiety, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. While a diagnosis of anxiety may sound frightening, having a diagnosis means that a treatment plan can be created to help your child.
While anxiety is a chronic illness, it is manageable and is nothing to be ashamed—or afraid—of. Contact your child’s pediatrician or a mental health facility like McLean to find the care they need.
Want More Info?
Looking for even more information about anxiety? You may find these resources helpful.
Interesting Articles and Videos and More
Learn more about anxiety and what you can do if you or a loved one is displaying signs of anxiety or related disorders.
These organizations may also have useful information:
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
An organization dedicated to increasing awareness and improving the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders in children and adults.
The Child Anxiety Network
This organization aims to provide thorough, user-friendly information about child anxiety. They also offer direction for those who are not sure where to turn when they think their child or a child they know may need professional help to cope with anxiety.
Books About Anxiety