Top Treatments for Anxiety Disorders

Having an anxiety disorder can feel like your life is spinning out of control–but leaving your illness untreated is never a good idea.

Top Treatments for Anxiety Disorders

Medically reviewed in December 2020

Your best option: Get help from your doctor or another health care professional. Your doctor has the tools–and knowledge–to help you put together a treatment plan and overcome your anxiety disorder. Here's what you can expect.

Pinpointing your treatment options
Before treatment begins, your doctor will find out if your symptoms are caused by an anxiety disorder or another emotional or physical condition. They'll also look for any coexisting conditions, such as depression or substance abuse. To make the diagnosis, they'll need to hear all about your symptoms, and how they're affecting your life. Once you're diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe medications, talk therapy or a combination of both to put you on the road to recovery. 

Antidepressants offer relief. If your doctor prescribes an antidepressant, it could take you up to four to six weeks to feel relief from your anxiety. The most common antidepressants for anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), escitalopram (Lexapro) and citalopram (Celexa).

Anti-anxiety medicines work well, too. To help you feel calm and relaxed right away, many doctors prescribe anti-anxiety medicine. Keep in mind that you may experience side effects like sleepiness, grogginess, dry mouth or feeling uncoordinated. They're generally prescribed for shorter periods of time, since people can develop a tolerance or dependancy. The most proven class of anti-anxiety drugs is benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan).

Beta-blockers keep your symptoms in check. These medicines help control physical symptoms of anxiety—like rapid heart rate, sweating and dizziness—by blocking a stress hormone called norepinephrine. And they're more often prescribed to treat phobias since they don't affect the emotional symptoms of anxiety. Common beta-blockers include atenolol (Tenormin) and propranolol (Inderal).

Talk it out with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Talking about your problems can also help you overcome anxiety. Doctors often recommend using cognitive-behavioral therapy—also known as talk therapy—to treat anxiety disorders. You can set up an appointment to speak with a trained mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or counselor. Therapy can help you find the root of your anxiety and learn how to manage anxiety symptoms.

How effective is treatment?
Once you know anxiety's signs and symptoms, it's up to you to seek treatment as soon as possible. Remember, the goal of treatment is to help you function well and feel better, making each day yours for the taking once again.

How you and your doctor decide to treat your anxiety depends on the specific problems you're facing, as well as your preferences. With an effective treatment plan in place, many adults not only see improvement in their symptoms, but also find they can lead fulfilling, productive lives.

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