Anxiety Disorder Treatment: A Look at Your Options

Fear, worry and anxiety shouldn't disrupt your life. Consider these treatment options if you have an anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable

Feeling a little nervous or anxious in response to certain situations (e.g., taking an exam or dealing with an emergency) is normal

But if you constantly experience feelings of fear, anxiety or worry, to the point where it is interfering with your life and work, you may have an anxiety disorder.

It’s conservatively estimated that 12% of Canadians are affected by one (or more) of six anxiety disorders (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder (with or without agoraphobia), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or Specific Phobia).

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders, with symptoms that include excessive worrying, restlessness, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, trembling, sweating, rapid heartbeat and sleeplessness.

Other symptoms of an anxiety disorder can include sudden panic attacks, irrational fears or avoidance behaviours (e.g., a person develops a sudden fear of elevators and stops using them).

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are twice as common in women as in men and tend to run in families.

Childhood trauma, illness, stress, an underlying personality disorder, substance abuse or depression can also influence the development of an anxiety disorder.

Treating Anxiety Disorders

Many people with anxiety try to self-medicate using alcohol or marijuana. Unfortunately, these substances make symptoms worse.

The good news is that anxiety disorders are highly treatable, typically through a combination of psychological counselling and medication.

Psychological counselling (talk therapy) is a very effective treatment. It helps people with anxiety to better understand their stressors and teaches strategies to help manage them. Another approach, called cognitive-behavioural therapy, involves identifying negative thoughts and behaviours and replacing them with positive alternatives.

The most common medications used in the treatment of anxiety are a select group of antidepressants, which influence the brain chemicals that may play a role in anxiety, and benzodiazepines like lorazepam (Ativan) or alprazolam (Xanax) – sedative drugs that provide effective, short-term relief from anxiety symptoms.

Don’t allow fear, worry or anxiety to continue to disrupt your life at home and at work. There are highly effective treatments available to help you. Talk to your doctor.

Or check out these helpful resources:

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.