Anxiety disorders are among the most common types of mental health problems. They can have a significant impact on day to day functioning and can lead to severe physical symptoms that prevent people with the disorder from living a full and happy life.
Overcoming anxiety can be difficult because of the tricky way it operates, generating vicious cycles of anxiety that become difficult to escape from. Left unchecked, symptoms can get progressively worse and become increasingly disruptive to your lifestyle. This is why, as with any mental health problem, the sooner you seek help, the better.
Fortunately, anxiety is also one of the most treatable conditions. Here are three of the most effective psychological treatments available.
CBT is one of the most flexible and most widely researched approaches to treating anxiety, and the evidence demonstrates it’s effectiveness for a wide range of anxiety disorders.
Avoidance is one of many survival mechanisms designed to protect us from danger. It's also a common behaviour when a feared event happens and anxiety strikes. CBT aims to interrupt the noisy voice of anxiety by showing that avoidance isn't necessary to keep us safe. It’s also easily tailored to an individual's needs, making it a little gentler than traditional behavioural therapy.
CBT is widely available on the NHS and privately, usually requiring an hour per week for 12-15 sessions, depending on the complexity of the problem. Once you have learnt the tools needed to help manage the feelings of anxiety, you can use them again and again and in all areas of life.
Behaviour therapy is one of the oldest psychological therapies for anxiety and is likely the most effective in many circumstances. It refers to a range of practical, hands-on approaches to tackling fears.
Perhaps the most widely used methods is Exposure Therapy, which is designed to help people confront their fears. People often tend to avoid feared objects, activities or situations. Avoidance of these things over a long period can make the fear become even worse. Exposure therapy exposes people to the things that cause them distress, with the aim of creating a safe environment in which a person can reduce anxiety, decrease avoidance, and improve one's quality of life.
This is often done gradually, working with less anxiety-provoking things, before moving on to bigger, stronger fears; but nonetheless, a degree of discomfort is to be expected. The upside is that if you are able to endure it, and fully engage with the therapy, the success rate is near to 100%, and it is often quicker than talking-based approaches.
MBCT can be used in conjunction with other approaches, or as a stand-alone treatment and is all about learning to apply mindfulness techniques at times of stress in an attempt to teach your body to relax. The idea is that by using the techniques, we can manually override our body's automatic fear response such as increased heart rate, shortness of breath and so on, adjusting the feedback loop to teach our brains that actually, the triggering event doesn’t make us feel scared.
Common techniques include:
The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence suggests attending 12–15 sessions, for one hour per week, although this can be adjusted according to the complexity of the problem and the speed of clinical response.
There are many ways that people with anxiety disorders can be helped. Along with therapy, lifestyle changes, exercise, diet, and medication can all help reduce the overwhelming sensations that are common with anxiety disorders.
If you are experiencing anxiety and would like help deciding which therapy you are best suited to, give our experienced team a call and they'll be happy to talk you through your options on 0203 326 9160.
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