The standard approach in the treatment of anxiety disorder uses either therapy ir a form of relaxation techniques for anxiety or medications or the combination of the two.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is an established, effective and lasting therapy option for anxiety disorder. In this type of therapy, the patient focuses on identifying, understanding and changing the patterns of thinking and behaving. Effects are usually seen in 12 to 16 weeks.
Exposure therapy is a form of CBT involving a process for reducing anxiety responses. In this therapy, the patient is gradually exposed to the object or a situation that causes fear and anxiety, becoming less sensitive to it over time. Exposure therapy is also useful for obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias.
Other effective forms of therapy for anxiety disorder include psychoanalysis, acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT, dialectical behavior therapy or DBT, interpersonal therapy or IPT and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy or EMDR.
Medication treatment for anxiety is very common and often combined with some form of therapy. It is believed that the combination of the two gives best results. Medications are prescribed by a doctor, who can be a general physician, family practice doctor, pediatrician or psychiatrist, and, in many states, by nurse practitioners.
Medication can be a short-term or long-term treatment, depending on the individual and on the specific nature of the disorder. However, sometimes it may take some time to find the medication that works the best.
There are four major classes of medication used in the treatment of anxiety disorder. Those are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRI, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SNRI, benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants.
Each of these classes has certain side effects, just like any other kind of medication. Those side effects, depending on the specific kind, may include dizziness, nausea, indigestion, sleepiness, insomnia, headache, weight gain and more.
SSRIs and SNRIs are considered to be the most effective and they are used as the first line of treatment for anxiety disorder. Benzodiazepines are very effective but the long-term use may require increased doses, which may lead to problems with tolerance and dependence.
Medication must be taken exactly as instructed by the doctor. Most of them will not work at once and their full effect will be reached after several days, weeks or even months. In case serious side effects occur, it is very important to consult a doctor.