Treatment of Anxiety Disorders

When treating anxiety disorders, there are a number of things to consider:

  • Treatment of the cause if appropriate;
  • Psychotherapy;
  • Drug therapy; and/or
  • Treatment of other active disorders.

Accurate diagnosis is important because treatment varies from one anxiety disorder to another.

Additionally, anxiety disorders must be distinguished from anxiety that occurs in many other mental health disorders, which involve different treatment approaches.

If the cause is another medical disorder or a drug, medical professionals aim to correct the cause rather than treat the symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety should subside after the physical disorder is treated or the drug has been stopped long enough for any withdrawal symptoms to abate.

If anxiety remains, anti-anxiety drugs or psychotherapy (such as behavioural therapy) is used.

For individuals who are dying, certain strong pain relievers, such as morphine, may relieve both pain and anxiety.

If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, drug therapy or psychotherapy (such as behavioral therapy), alone or in combination, can significantly relieve the distress and dysfunction for most individuals.

Benzodiazepines (such as diazepam) are commonly prescribed for acute anxiety.

For many individuals, antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), work as well for anxiety disorders as they do for depression.

Specific treatments depend on which anxiety disorder is diagnosed.

All of the anxiety disorders can occur along with other psychiatric conditions.

For example, anxiety disorders often occur along with an alcohol use disorder.

It is important to treat all of these conditions as soon as possible.

Treating the alcohol use disorder without treating the anxiety is unlikely to be effective since the individual may be using alcohol to treat the anxiety.

On the other hand, treating the anxiety without addressing the alcohol disorder may be unsuccessful because daily changes in the amount of alcohol in the blood can cause levels of anxiety to fluctuate.

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