How Does Therapy Help Anxiety? (2023)

Whether you’re experiencing panic attacks, obsessions and compulsions, or everyday anxiety symptoms, it’s essential to know that you’re not alone. As the most common mental illness in the United States, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults, or 19.1% of the population, every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

How Does Therapy Help Anxiety? (1)

Working with a mental health professional can improve your mental health. For many anxiety disorders, psychotherapy is the most effective treatment. Psychotherapy can help you uncover the underlying causes of your worries and fears, learn how to relax, and develop healthier coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills. Essentially, therapy gives you the necessary tools to overcome anxiety and teaches you how to use them.

What types of therapy are used in the treatment of anxiety?

Psychotherapy—unlike anti-anxiety medication—treats more than just the symptoms of anxiety. Therapy’s self-reflective process helps people with anxiety disorders understand, identify, and transform their anxiety. If anxiety symptoms flare up, implementing healthy coping strategies can be critical.

Some of the types of therapy most commonly used in the treatment of anxiety include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most widely used therapy for the treatment of anxiety disorders. CBT relies on the concept that our thoughts—not external events—affect how we feel, think, and behave. In other words, the situation you’re in doesn’t determine how you feel, but your perception of the situation does.

CBT addresses negative thoughts and behaviors in the way we look at the world and ourselves. Cognitive-behavioral treatment involves two main components:

  1. Cognitive therapy examines how your negative thoughts contribute to feelings of nervousness and anxiety.
  2. Behavior therapy examines how your behaviors and reactions in situations trigger anxiety.

Through a combination of homework assignments, goal-setting, group therapy, and structured therapy sessions, CBT aims to identify problematic thoughts and beliefs, challenge them, and replace them with healthier, more constructive thoughts and beliefs.

According to a meta-analysis by Hoffman et al., CBT is an effective treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions, including:

(Video) How Can Therapy Help Anxiety? Dr Sheri Jacobson - Harley Therapy

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Specific phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

CBT is also an effective treatment for co-occurring, related disorders, such as mood disorders, including major depression and bipolar disorder.

Exposure Therapy

As the name suggests, exposure therapy exposes clients to feared objects or situations. Through repeated exposures, clients feel an increasing sense of control over feared situations, and excessive worry becomes more manageable over time.

Exposure therapy can be done in two ways. Therapists might ask clients to imagine feared situations, or clients may gradually confront feared situations in real life. Exposure therapy can be used alone or in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy involves recognizing negative patterns of thinking and behaving that are rooted in past experiences. Therapists with a psychodynamic orientation typically use open-ended questions and free association, allowing clients to discuss whatever is on their minds.

During therapy sessions, clients and therapists work together to identify unconscious patterns of negative behavior. By bringing these associations to light, clients can learn to overcome problematic behaviors and feelings, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a short-term treatment that addresses interpersonal issues in adolescents and adults.

During initial therapy sessions, you can expect your therapist to gather information about the nature of your mental health concerns and interpersonal experiences to identify negative patterns, such as social isolation, avoidance, or aggression. Ultimately, IPT treatment works to help clients understand their mental health issues and foster positive social interactions with others.

How Does Therapy Help Anxiety? (2)

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(Video) How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

DBT is heavily based on CBT but focuses on accepting uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors instead of struggling with them. By coming to terms with negative thoughts and behaviors, clients can work with therapists to create a gradual treatment plan toward recovery.

DBT helps patients learn emotional and cognitive skills and successfully apply those skills to their daily lives. Generally, DBT focuses on tackling difficult emotions, such as excessive fear and nervousness. DBT can help people with anxiety disorders improve their capacity for emotional regulation and their ability to control emotions.

Complementary Therapies for Anxiety Disorders

As you explore your anxiety disorder in talk therapy, you may also want to experiment with complementary strategies to help manage stress levels and improve your mental health. Some complementary therapies that can help reduce anxiety symptoms include:

  • Healthy lifestyle changes: Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, avoiding caffeine and nicotine, and setting aside time for your favorite daily activities can help manage the symptoms of anxiety.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation, can help reduce anxiety and improve your mental health.
  • Support groups: Many people with anxiety disorders find support groups to be a beneficial component of their treatment plan. Support groups can help adolescents, adults, and older adults feel less alone, fight social anxiety, and connect with people in similar situations. Research has shown that support groups can be especially helpful for those with posttraumatic stress disorder.

Before incorporating herbal supplements or vitamins into your treatment plan, make sure to talk to your primary care physician to rule out potential interactions with benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, and anxiety medications.

What about anxiety medication?

While talk therapy is typically used as a first-line treatment for anxiety disorders, anti-anxiety medications can help treat anxiety’s physical symptoms to help individuals function and feel better. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that anxiety medications cannot address the underlying emotional and psychological causes of anxiety or help people learn different ways to cope with anxiety symptoms.

(Video) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Video

Some common types of medications used to treat anxiety disorders include:

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are antidepressants that influence both serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Common SNRIs used to treat anxiety disorders include Duloxetine, Cymbalta, and Venlafaxine.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants that boost serotonin production in the brain. Common SSRIs used to treat anxiety disorders include Paroxetine and Sertraline.

Anti-anxiety medications, such as Xanax, Klonopin, Lorazepam, Buspirone, can help manage physical symptoms.

Unwanted side effects, such as restlessness, irritability, headaches, and nausea, are commonly associated with anxiety medication, and responses to medications vary between individuals. It’s crucial to work closely with your primary care provider, psychologist, and psychiatrist to monitor changes in mood, behavior, and other specific symptoms to find the right medication.

For people with intense panic attacks, obsessions and compulsions, or intrusive thoughts, medication may be essential to living a fulfilling life.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, anxiety symptoms can become overwhelming, and intense fear and nervousness can interfere with your daily life. If you’re struggling with excessive anxiety, it’s essential to place your mental health in the right person’s hands.

To find the right therapist, reach out to a mental health professional through WithTherapy. We’ll connect you to a mental health provider you feel comfortable with, regardless of your personal preferences and requirements.

(Video) Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) - causes, symptoms & treatment

One of the experienced mental health providers on the WithTherapy platform will help you explore your treatment options, find new ways to manage your anxiety symptoms, improve your quality of life, and navigate your mental health concerns.

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How Does Therapy Help Anxiety? ›

Through the cognitive component of therapy, patients learn to understand how their thoughts contribute to their anxiety symptoms. By learning to change those thought patterns, they can reduce the likelihood and intensity of anxiety symptoms.

What are the 4 coping skills for anxiety? ›

The Coping Skills: Anxiety worksheet describes four strategies for reducing anxiety. Strategies include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, imagery, and challenging irrational thoughts.

What are 5 coping skills for anxiety? ›

Here are 11 tips for coping with an anxiety disorder:
  • Keep physically active. ...
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. ...
  • Quit smoking, and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages. ...
  • Use stress management and relaxation techniques. ...
  • Make sleep a priority. ...
  • Eat healthy foods. ...
  • Learn about your disorder.
Jul 20, 2021

How long does therapy take to help anxiety? ›

The number of recommended sessions varies by condition and treatment type, however, the majority of psychotherapy clients report feeling better after 3 months; those with depression and anxiety experience significant improvement after short and longer time frames, 1-2 months & 3-4.

What is the success rate of therapy for anxiety? ›

A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health found that over half of all patients who received therapy for anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions experienced significant improvement in their symptoms.

What is the 3 3 3 rule for anxiety? ›

Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm. Whenever you feel your brain going 100 miles per hour, this mental trick can help center your mind, bringing you back to the present moment, Chansky says.

What are the three C's of anxiety recovery? ›

It is based on the three "C's" of recovery calm your body, correct your thinking, and confront your fears.

What triggers anxiety disorder? ›

Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you're very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like: physical or emotional abuse.

What is the 5 4 3 2 1 method for anxiety? ›

This technique asks you to find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Using this with someone who feels anxious will help to calm them down and reduce their feelings of anxiety.

What are 3 tips to stop anxiety? ›

How can I help myself?
  1. Talk to someone you trust add. Talking to someone you trust about what's making you anxious could be a relief. ...
  2. Try to manage your worries add. ...
  3. Look after your physical health add. ...
  4. Try breathing exercises add. ...
  5. Keep a diary add. ...
  6. Complementary and alternative therapies add.

Is therapy worth it for anxiety? ›

Most patients who suffer from anxiety are able to reduce or eliminate symptoms after several (or fewer) months of psychotherapy, and many patients notice improvement after just a few sessions. Psychologists are highly trained and will tailor a treatment plan to address the unique needs of each patient.

How do you know you are healing from anxiety? ›

You Have a Positive Outlook on Yourself

You also know you have recovered by attending therapy sessions, taking medication, and no longer feeling ashamed of your mental health. As a result, you now feel comfortable talking about your anxiety or depression since you are proud of doing something about it.

How often should you go to therapy for anxiety? ›

A weekly session is a great place to start when beginning therapy. Generally, most patients will start with this frequency, then increase or decrease as needed. A weekly session is ideal for people who want to build skills related to things like mindfulness, coping, and communication.

Is anxiety treatment lifelong? ›

There is no cure for anxiety disorder. It is a chronic condition that can take many forms. The long-term outlook depends on the severity of your condition. Most people with OCD, phobias, and panic disorder improve greatly within the first weeks or months of proper treatment.

Is anxiety 100% treatable? ›

Anxiety is not curable, but there are ways to keep it from being a big problem. Getting the right treatment for your anxiety will help you dial back your out-of-control worries so that you can get on with life. There are many ways to do this.

Has anyone overcome severe anxiety? ›

You can overcome chronic anxiety. You can get your life back. It's not easy for most people, and it probably won't be easy for you either, but the good news is that it can be done.

When should you push through anxiety? ›

Many experts will say that if you are working to achieve a positive goal then you should push through the anxiety that comes up as you step outside the comfort zone. The idea being that if you push yourself through the anxiety you will get past it and achieve what you are wanting.

How do I train my brain to stop anxiety? ›

Instead of worrying about everything that can go wrong, write away your worries. By writing down your worries, you feel as though you're emptying your brain, and you feel lighter and less tense. Take time to acknowledge your worries and write them down. Explore the roots of your worries or problems.

What are the three A's of anxiety? ›

Take a moment to see it, absorb it, identify it.

What is the core root of anxiety? ›

It describes the arrival of a “core fear” — one's overriding interpretation of life as dangerous, and a “chief defense” — one's primary strategy for protecting oneself from that danger. The core fear and chief defense create a singular dynamic that, according to the model, is the true wellspring of basic anxiety.

What are the levels of anxiety? ›

The four levels of anxiety are mild anxiety, moderate anxiety, severe anxiety, and panic level anxiety, each of which is classified by the level of distress and impairment they cause. The four components of anxiety can also be influenced by the person's personality, coping strategies, life experiences, and gender.

Why did my anxiety go away? ›

Anxiety usually goes away once the threat or stressor passes and your system calms down. However, if you have an anxiety disorder, anxiety can linger beyond the triggering event and become out of proportion. Chronic (long-term) or severe anxiety can seriously impair your daily functioning.

What personality type is prone to anxiety? ›

Research has indicated that individuals with high emotional reactivity (high neuroticism) and introverted tendencies (low extroversion) are more likely to experience anxiety than other personality types [101].

Is anxiety a chemical imbalance? ›

But researchers don't know exactly what causes anxiety disorders. They suspect a combination of factors plays a role: Chemical imbalance: Severe or long-lasting stress can change the chemical balance that controls your mood. Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period can lead to an anxiety disorder.

What the Bible says on anxiety? ›

Philippians 4:6

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

What is the first line best practice for treating anxiety? ›

Antidepressants are the first-line medications in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Recommended medications for anxiety disorders fall into the following groups:
  • Antidepressants.
  • Anxiolytics.
  • Atypical antipsychotics.
  • Mood stabilizers.
  • Anticonvulsants.

What is the 4 7 8 technique for anxiety? ›

The 4-7-8 breathing technique involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. People may find it helps manage anxiety. This breathing pattern aims to reduce anxiety or help people get to sleep.

What are the most effective anxiety interventions? ›

Some of the management options for anxiety disorders include:
  • learning about anxiety.
  • mindfulness.
  • relaxation techniques.
  • correct breathing techniques.
  • cognitive therapy.
  • behaviour therapy.
  • counselling.
  • dietary adjustments.

How I healed my anxiety without drugs? ›

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication: 7 Holistic Ways to Cope
  1. Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
  2. Avoid Stimulants. ...
  3. Get Enough Sleep. ...
  4. Just Breathe. ...
  5. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  6. Exercise. ...
  7. Do What You Enjoy. ...
  8. Where to Get Help.
Dec 6, 2017

How do I stop overthinking and anxiety? ›

These tips can help you move in the right direction.
  1. Step back and look at how you're responding. ...
  2. Find a distraction. ...
  3. Take a deep breath. ...
  4. Meditate. ...
  5. Look at the bigger picture. ...
  6. Do something nice for someone else. ...
  7. Recognize automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) ...
  8. Acknowledge your successes.

How do you break an anxiety cycle? ›

One important step in reversing the anxiety cycle is gradually confronting feared situations. If you do this, it will lead to an improved sense of confidence, which will help reduce your anxiety and allow you to go into situations that are important to you.

Is anxiety a form of mental illness? ›

Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

Will I get back to normal after anxiety? ›

Feelings of anxiety are likely to pass with time as we get used to the "new normal" but it's important to do what we can to take care of our mental health. There are lots of things that can help you to manage these feelings and make it easier to adjust.

Will I ever be free from anxiety? ›

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will be able to eliminate your anxiety forever. Anxious feelings are a normal part of life. However, with treatment, you can significantly reduce and manage your symptoms, and you may even have long periods where you don't experience any significant anxiety.

What is the last stage of anxiety recovery? ›

As long as you are containing well, aren't creating anxiety by unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors, and erring on the side of deep relaxation, rest, and good sleep, your body will pull out of this recovery phase and will move toward normal energy and health. That's typically how this last stage works.

How long does therapy usually last? ›

Therapy can last anywhere from one session to several months or even years. It all depends on what you want and need. Some people come to therapy with a very specific problem they need to solve and might find that one or two sessions is sufficient.

How long should you stay with the same therapist? ›

According to Laura Osinoff, executive director of the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in Manhattan, “On average, you can expect to spend one to three years [in therapy] if you are having, for example, relationship problems.

How long should a therapy session last? ›

If you're going for individual counseling, then your session will last approximately 50-55 minutes. This 50-55 minutes is referred to as a "therapeutic hour." This is standard practice, although some clinicians will offer 45-minute sessions or 60-minute sessions.

Does anxiety get worse with age? ›

Does anxiety get worse with age? Anxiety disorders don't necessarily get worse with age, but the number of people suffering from anxiety changes across the lifespan. Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults.

How do I feel normal again after anxiety? ›

Relaxation and breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation can help to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety and make them feel less overwhelming. These techniques also bring your attention to the present moment and help you to ruminate less on the past and future.

What does undiagnosed anxiety look like? ›

your worrying is uncontrollable and causes distress. your worrying affects your daily life, including school, your job and your social life. you cannot let go of your worries. you worry about all sorts of things, such as your job or health, and minor concerns, such as household chores.

How rare is extreme anxiety? ›

Anxiety disorders are common mental health problems that affect many people. Approximately 25% of the population have an anxiety disorder that warrants treatment at some time in their life and up to another 25% have less severe anxieties such as fears of spider and snakes.

What does anxiety feel like? ›

Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry, or unease, usually about a stressful situation, an uncertain outcome, or an imminent event that can make it difficult to go about your day. Anxiety is your body's normal reaction to danger. It's a fight-or-flight response in response to a perceived threat.

Is anxiety developed or genetic? ›

There's clear research showing that anxiety is influenced by genetics. In fact, experts noticed a family connection for anxiety even before they understood how DNA or genes worked. If you have a close relative with anxiety, your chance of developing it's about 2 to 6 times higher than if you don't.

How is severe anxiety like? ›

feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax. having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst. feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down. feeling like other people can see you're anxious and are looking at you.

What is the most difficult anxiety disorder to treat? ›

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry. Around half of the patients treated for GAD will fail to respond to initial treatment.

What are the 4 major coping strategies? ›

What are some common coping strategies?
  • Lower your expectations.
  • Ask others to help or assist you.
  • Take responsibility for the situation.
  • Engage in problem solving.
  • Maintain emotionally supportive relationships.
  • Maintain emotional composure or, alternatively, expressing distressing emotions.
Nov 24, 2020

What are the 4 A's of coping? ›

When your stress level exceeds your ability to cope, you need to restore the balance by reducing the stressors or increasing your ability to cope or both. Try using one of the four A's: avoid, alter, accept or adapt.

What are the 4 types of coping strategies? ›

Weiten has identified four types of coping strategies: appraisal-focused (adaptive cognitive), problem-focused (adaptive behavioral), emotion-focused, and occupation-focused coping.

What are the 5 C's of coping? ›

The 5Cs are competence, confidence, character, caring, and connection.

What are 3 unhealthy coping skills? ›

Some of the most common unhealthy coping mechanisms are:
  • Avoiding issues. ...
  • Sleeping too much. ...
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use. ...
  • Impulsive spending. ...
  • Over or under eating.

What is the difference between stress and anxiety? ›

People under stress experience mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping. Anxiety, on the other hand, is defined by persistent, excessive worries that don't go away even in the absence of a stressor.

What is the 3 3 3 coping technique? ›

It involves looking around your environment to identify three objects and three sounds, then moving three body parts. Many people find this strategy helps focus and ground them when anxiety overwhelms them.

What is the single most important thing you can do for stress? ›

Dr. William James once said, “the greatest weapon against stress is the ability to choose one thought over another.” This is the single most effective treatment you can do for managing stress – change the way you think. There isn't a drug or a diet – it's just boils down to changing the way you think.

What are the 4 R's of wellbeing? ›

The 4-R Routines Framework

You can get the same (if not more) benefits by making your wellness routines smaller and more frequent. The 4-R's are: (1) refresh in the morning, (2) revive in the midday, (3) reset in the afternoon, and (4) rest in the evening.

What causes poor coping skills? ›

The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior explains that those who struggle with addiction often struggle with maladaptive coping strategies; it could stem from denial, blame, guilt, trauma, abuse and much more.

What is an unhealthy coping mechanism? ›

A maladaptive coping mechanism may include avoiding a person or a situation which causes you stress, becoming defensive or harming yourself in some way. While adaptive coping mechanisms are healthy and positive, maladaptive ones are negative and could harm your health in the long run.

What are three calming and coping methods? ›

Relaxing coping strategies:

Listen to calming music. Take some deep breaths (deep breathing). Think of a calm, happy place (guided imagery). Tense and relax your muscles (progressive muscle relaxation).

What are 3 instantly calming techniques for anxiety? ›

Here are three simple techniques that focus on the thinking and behaving part of a person to help them take back control.
  • CBT technique 1: Focus on how the feelings will change.
  • CBT technique 2: Chew it over and act normal.
  • CBT technique 3: Catch the underlying assumption and chase down logical. conclusions.

What is the grounding rule for anxiety? ›

Grounding is an effective way to calm anxiety during a panic attack. In this process, you identify objects around you to help your brain recognize where you are. This creates a sense of comfort because you know where you are and you feel more in control of the situation.

What is the 7 point scale for anxiety? ›

Score 0-4: Minimal Anxiety. Score 5-9: Mild Anxiety. Score 10-14: Moderate Anxiety. Score greater than 15: Severe Anxiety.


1. How to cope with anxiety | Olivia Remes | TEDxUHasselt
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2. How Talk Therapy Works
3. CBT Therapy at Home | Treat Anxiety & Depression in 10 Days | Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Techniques
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4. TRT and Anxiety - Does TRT Help Anxiety? Does TRT Cause Anxiety?
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5. So, You're Having an Anxiety Attack (The Calm-Down Method for Stopping Anxiety Attacks)
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6. Best Practices for Anxiety Treatment | Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
(Doc Snipes)


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