Treatment options for anxiety disorders

Anxiety itself isn’t unhealthy, but an anxiety disorder can have a number of negative effects on your life. It can take some time to figure out the right treatment for a specific anxiety disorder, which is why it’s important to seek out treatment early on.


Psychotherapy is an important component in anxiety disorder treatment. Through therapy, the patient works with a licensed mental health professional to try and reduce their anxiety and develop coping mechanisms to use in the future. One particular treatment for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves reframing troubling thoughts.


Depression and anxiety are two different conditions, so why would medications for depression also be used to treat anxiety? Experts believe that the two disorders are biologically linked. Many antidepressant medications are used successfully to treat anxiety disorders.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, which improves a person’s mood and can be extremely helpful in treating anxiety disorders. They are generally safe and well-tolerated.
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These drugs work like SSRIs in that they increase serotonin levels, but unlike SSRIs, they also increase norepinephrine levels. They are generally as effective as SSRIs in treating anxiety.
  • Benzodiazepines: These drugs aren’t ideal for long-term use, because they can be addictive and dangerous if taken with certain substances like alcohol. But they’re helpful for people who need to manage their anxiety for a short amount of time; they especially help reduce the physical effects of anxiety. Examples of these drugs include clonazepam (Klonopin) and lorazepam (Ativan).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: These are a class of antidepressants that increase the amount of certain mood-related neurotransmitters in a person’s brain. The problem with these medications is that they can cause undesirable side effects, including blurred vision, drowsiness, a dry mouth, tremors, and sexual problems. It’s up to an individual and their provider to determine if these medications would be best to treat anxiety.

Lifestyle changes

Many people with anxiety disorders need medication and therapy to start feeling significantly better. But there are a couple of things you can do to potentially decrease your anxiety as you treat the condition with medication, therapy, or both.

  • Support group: Mental illness can be isolating. Connecting with people who are going through the same things as you can be therapeutic in its own way. A support group might be helpful during and after treatment.
  • Socialization: It’s completely understandable that you’d want to focus on yourself right now, and anxiety can make reaching out socially feel much harder than usual, but trying not to let your relationships slide too far by the wayside, as they could help you out in the long run. If you live close to those close to your heart, try to schedule some time to see your friends and family.
  • Don’t just stop treatment when you feel better: It’s wonderful to have a good day free of any symptoms, but a good day doesn’t mean that your anxiety is completely gone. Stopping some medications too quickly can have negative effects, so keep your provider in the loop whenever you are thinking your regimen might need adjusting.
  • Regular exercise and sleep: Exercise stimulates the release of happy chemicals in your brain. Many people find that it has a meditative or calming effect, too. Getting regular exercise helps keep your mood balanced and your stress levels low, as does getting all the sleep that you need each night.
  • Avoid or reduce sedatives, stimulants, and other illicit substances: Alcohol seems like a quick fix for anxiety, but it can actually make anxiety and depression more pronounced, so it can be a good idea to avoid or reduce your use of it. Nicotine from cigarettes and caffeine from coffee are also mood-altering, and can raise your anxiety levels, so it can also be helpful to moderate these. Your provider can also be a great partner in finding ways to manage use of these substances.
  • Effects while TTC or pregnant: So far, a lot of research shows that most of the above medications are safe to take during the journey of trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and postpartum while breastfeeding. But women should still consult with their provider if they decide to start TTC while on anti-anxiety medication. Providers can consult about the best course of treatment during this time, and watch for possible side effects of the medication. 

There are a lot of different kinds of treatment available for anxiety disorders, so if you’ve been struggling with one, there’s no reason to just wait things out and see if they get better. Your provider can point you to the right resources to help you learn more about different options for anxiety disorder treatment, and soon enough, you’ll be on your way to feeling better.

Read more
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Coping and support.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Sep 25 2014. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Treatments and Drugs.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Sep 25 2014. Web.
  • Melinda Smith, Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal. “Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks.” HelpGuide., Sep 2016. Web.
  • “Medication.” ADAA. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2016. Web.
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