Anxiety treatment: how do we treat anxiety?

Anxiety can have a negative impact on lots of different areas of your life. However, this condition is treatable and you can make a full recovery.

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Page medically reviewed by Dr Natasha Bijlani (FRCPsych, MBBS), Consultant Psychiatrist based at Priory Hospital Roehampton London in February 2022.

What is anxiety treatment?

Everyone can feel worried and anxious from time-to-time, often as a response to stressful life events. However, if you struggle with an anxiety disorder, these emotions can be especially intense. They might prevent you from functioning effectively on a daily basis and can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing.

Anxiety is a broad term that covers a range of underlying disorders. Different types of anxiety include:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder, including panic attacks
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Separation anxiety
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Adjustment disorder
  • Phobias

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety can vary depending on the type of anxiety you’re struggling with, as well as being unique to you. However, the most common symptoms of anxiety to look out for include:

  • Persistent sense of worry and dread
  • Impatience
  • Anger and irritability
  • Breathing problems
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Palpitations

Getting a diagnosis for your anxiety can seem like a daunting prospect. However, this is the first step along your road to recovery. Typically, you’ll be diagnosed with anxiety if you:

  • Spend most days worrying excessively about lots of different things
  • Find it difficult to control your worrying
  • Find that your symptoms are significantly interfering with your life and general wellbeing

If this sounds like you, it’s really important to make an appointment to see your GP. They’ll be able to assess your symptoms, diagnose your anxiety and try to find the cause of your anxiety. Alternatively, they’ll be able to refer you to a specialist mental health professional for further review. Or you may wish to get in contact with a mental health provider, such as Priory, directly. Our expert psychiatrists will be able to give you an in-depth evaluation and recommend next steps for anxiety treatment.

What causes anxiety?

There are a number of factors that are linked to anxiety and may increase your chances of developing this mental health condition.

Genes

Having a close relative who struggles with anxiety can increase the likelihood that you’ll also develop anxiety at some point in your life. This might be because of inherited genes or it could be down to the fact that you’ve been exposed to anxious behaviours and thoughts as you’re growing up, normalising them and leading to you inheriting them.

Childhood or other past experiences

Going through stressful or traumatic experiences can cause anxiety – this is especially the case if it occurred during childhood. Experiencing the following in the past can lead to anxiety problems:

  • Being the victim of abuse and/or neglect
  • The death of a parent
  • Being bullied

Going through these difficult experiences as a child can prevent you developing effective coping skills for the future, meaning that you may be more prone to mental health conditions such as anxiety.

Physical or mental health problems

Other health problems can also be a trigger for anxiety.

  • Existing mental health conditions – if you already struggle with a mental health condition, such as depression, this can make it more likely that you’ll go on to develop other mental illnesses, including anxiety
  • Physical health problems – anxiety can be triggered or worsened by serious, chronic and life-threatening physical health conditions such as cancer

It’s also important to note that some prescribed medications can cause anxiety as one of their side effects. These include medications used to treat:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Thyroid problems
  • Seizures
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Asthma

Also, medication that contains caffeine can make you feel on edge and jittery. If you’re prone to anxiety, these medications can make your anxiety worse. These can include things like headache and migraine medication.

Current events or situations in your life

Current problems or situations going on in your life can also trigger anxiety. These can include things like:

  • Going through lots of change, upheaval and uncertainty
  • Stress – whether this is at work, at home, or in your relationship
  • Studying and exams
  • Exhaustion
  • Losing your job and unemployment
  • Financial worries
  • Housing problems and homelessness
  • Losing someone close to you
  • Loneliness
  • Being bullied
  • Worrying about current world events, for example, wars and climate change

Drug or alcohol use

Drinking or using illicit substances can also trigger anxiety or make any existing anxiety worse. These substances often cause 'hangxiety', which can have a big impact on your mood, making you feel low and on edge.

Diet

A diet that's too high in sugar and caffeine can also exacerbate anxiety. If you struggle with anxiety, it’s a good idea to try and limit your sugar and caffeine intake.

Fast access to treatment

We are currently able to offer fast access to private inpatient treatment at Priory. Please call us today and speak to our expert advisers.

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How is anxiety treated?

For many people, anxiety can be debilitating. However, effective support can relieve your distress and help you make a strong recovery. Treatment may differ depending the severity of your symptoms, but therapy and medication are proven to be effective at treating anxiety disorders.

At Priory, we're dedicated to providing specialist anxiety treatment and help.

All of our treatment plans are tailored to you and structured with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. We'll work with you to understand what might be causing your anxiety, tackle your symptoms, and improve your quality of life.

Getting professional help for your anxiety is absolutely crucial. Depending on how severe your anxiety is and the level of support you need, we have a number of different anxiety treatment programmes at Priory. These include:

effective treatments for anxiety

Therapy for anxiety

We use a number of different therapy types and formats to treat anxiety.

One of the most common methods we use to treat anxiety is a therapy known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is based on the idea that anxiety develops and is worsened by negative thought patterns. These can be deep-rooted and cause you to respond to and evaluate situations in unhealthy ways. Therefore, the aim of CBT is to address the unhealthy thought processes that underpin your anxiety, and look at why they've developed in the first place. Ultimately, this will help you to view situations much more positively.

Treating anxiety with CBT has been found to result in long-lasting benefits and provides you with effective coping mechanisms for the future. This means you’ll be able to recognise negative thoughts when they arise and respond to them in a more positive way, instead of remaining anxious.

Another technique that we use for anxiety is a method known as exposure therapy. This is a therapeutic technique that aims to reintroduce you to objects, situations or events that make you anxious, in carefully controlled steps. This helps you to gradually confront your fears, and reduce the distress you feel.

As well as CBT and exposure techniques, we also offer a number of other types of talking therapies to treat anxiety. These therapies come in a number of therapy formats:

  • 1:1 therapy - this form of therapy takes place on an individual basis between you and an anxiety specialist. During 1:1 therapy, your therapist will explore your unique concerns, helping you to achieve the best personal outcomes. These sessions can happen face-to-face or as part of online therapy
  • Group therapy - this type of therapy takes place in a group setting. Groups are usually made up of other patients who are going through similar issues to you or who have also been diagnosed with anxiety. The aim of group therapy is to provide you with the chance to share your experiences with other group members, offer mutual guidance and support, and explore your anxiety in a safe, compassionate and non-judgemental setting
  • Family and couples therapy – this type of therapy takes place in a group with your family or loved ones. The aim of family therapy is to help you have an open and honest conversation about your anxiety, allowing everyone involved to understand what anxiety is, recognise the signs and symptoms of anxiety and explore the impact that anxiety is having on you and those who are closest to you

When should I get anxiety treatment?

If you find that anxious thoughts are interfering in your life and preventing you from functioning on a daily basis, this is a sign that you need to reach out for professional support.

You really don’t have to suffer on your own; anxiety is entirely treatable and it’s possible for you to make a full recovery. Priory successfully helps thousands of people every year to address their anxiety and resume the healthy and fulfilling lives they deserve. Our world class team of psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists are dedicated to helping you every step of the way towards getting back on track.

Anxiety medication

Medication can also be used to treat anxiety and you can take this alongside CBT and other types of therapy. After being prescribed by a highly-trained psychiatrist, the right medication helps to complement the therapeutic parts of treatment. Different types of anxiety medication include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - the most recommended anxiety medication are a class of drugs known as SSRIs, which also have an antidepressant action. These aren’t addictive and their effects can be seen after just a few weeks. It’s important to take a full course of SSRI treatment, which is usually 9 months or more
  • Beta-blockers - beta-blockers, such as Propranolol, can help to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. Therefore, these can be useful in specific situations, like helping you to perform or speak in public, if this is something that usually makes you anxious
  • Anxiolytics - for the short-term relief of anxiety, anxiolytics such as Diazepam can be useful. However, these are addictive and shouldn’t be used long-term

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What are the different types of anxiety disorder?

Here are the main types of anxiety disorder:

GAD

GAD is characterised by excessive levels of worry and stress, to the extent that you’re struggling to manage in your day-to-day life. While this may sound similar to the anxiety that many people feel from time-to-time, people who suffer from GAD will have extreme levels of anxiety most of the time and will worry about most things. There may be no explanation for your symptoms, and you’ll likely have these symptoms most days for at least 6 months.

GAD will affect your day-to-day life, making it difficult for you to hold down a job, sleep well at night, and perhaps even leave the house. You may find it hard to do things you enjoy, or you may not want to do anything at all. People with GAD also commonly suffer from other mental health issues such as depression or another anxiety disorder.

Read more about GAD.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety that leads to people having regular panic attacks, often without any real explanation as to why they're happening. Panic attacks are an exaggerated physical reaction to fear. They can be very distressing and the physical symptoms they cause can be so intense that many people believe they're having a heart attack or dying.

Symptoms of panic attacks include a racing heartbeat, feeling dizzy or light-headed, and pain in your chest.

Read more about panic disorder.

Social anxiety disorder

Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder is when you struggle with an extreme level of fear or dread of social situations.

People with this type of anxiety may feel anxious about any kind of social scenario, but certain events are likely to trigger deeper, more debilitating levels of anxiety. These can include meeting new people, dating, or speaking in groups.

Read more about social anxiety disorder.

Health anxiety

Health anxiety​ is a type of anxiety disorder that’s defined by a person’s worry for their health. Formerly known as ‘hypochondria’ and also referred to ‘illness anxiety’, people with health anxiety will spend a lot of time worrying when they're unwell, or be excessively worried about getting ill.

Read more about health anxiety.

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is characterised by a person experiencing significant distress and anxiety when they're separated from a close attachment figure (such as a parent or spouse), or their home environment. While separation anxiety is more common in children and young people, it’s possible for this form of anxiety disorder to manifest at all stages of life.

Phobias

Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder that cause you to have an extreme level of fear for a certain object or situation. If you’re presented with this object or scenario, you’ll likely feel a sudden rush of intense feelings of anxiety and fear, which may include dizziness, a pounding heart and trembling or shaking.

The subject of a phobia can vary widely depending on each person, but they often fall into one of the following categories:

  • Animals - such as spiders or snakes
  • Environment - such as heights or deep water
  • Situational - such as flying or small spaces
  • Body-based - such as blood or an injection
  • Sexual - such as performance anxiety

Read more about phobias.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is considered to be a type of anxiety disorder on its own. Agoraphobia is an intense and uncontrollable fear of any scenario in which escape might be difficult or where help might not be available if something bad happens.

If you have agoraphobia, it’s likely to be severely affecting your ability to live a normal life. You might be afraid of leaving the house or using public transport.

Read more about agoraphobia.

PTSD

PTSD is an anxiety disorder you might develop after going through a traumatic event in your life. It can be triggered by a wide range of scenarios, such as physical or psychological abuse, an experience like a car crash or being caught up in a natural disaster, or sustained exposure to traumatic things like military combat or seeing people being hurt or killed.

Read more about PTSD.

OCD

OCD is characterised by someone having a series of ‘obsessions’ (regular thoughts, images, worries or doubts) and/or ‘compulsions’ (activities or behaviours that you do constantly). The obsessions create anxiety and the compulsions are done in order to relieve anxiety.

Examples include:

  • OCD obsession: fear of germs or contamination
  • OCD compulsion: recurring involuntary thoughts that you might say something inappropriate

Read more about OCD.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Related to OCD is BDD, a condition that centres around your body and general physical appearance. As with OCD, BDD manifests itself with a series of obsessions and compulsions. You might worry obsessively over what you perceive to be flaws in your appearance.

While we all can have insecurities about our appearance, BDD can severely hamper someone’s ability to lead an enjoyable life. They may find it hard to leave the house or shut themselves off from their social life.

Read more about BDD.

Perinatal anxiety

Pregnancy might also be a catalyst for severe levels of anxiety. This can be:

  • Prenatal or antenatal anxiety – while you are pregnant
  • Postpartum or postnatal anxiety – in the first year or so after giving birth
  • Perinatal anxiety – any time from the beginning of the pregnancy to around the first year after giving birth

Postpartum depression is a widely acknowledged mental health condition, but anxiety is also a common disorder to develop during or after pregnancy. In fact, it’s common for one condition to contribute to the development of the other.

Read more about postpartum anxiety.

Anxiety treatment FAQs

What is the first line of treatment for anxiety?

If you're struggling with anxiety, your GP is a good place to start for an initial chat about the difficulties you’re experiencing. Alternatively, you can get in touch with Priory, where our network of mental health specialists can assess how your symptoms are affecting you and set you on a path to recovery.

Once you’ve had an assessment, your specialist will discuss what treatments are best for you. For many people, a combination of talking therapy and medication will be the first line of treatment. Medication helps to limit your daily symptoms, allowing you to use therapy to focus on long-term recovery.

How successful is CBT in treating anxiety?

CBT is considered to be the of psychotherapy, with many studies showing it is effective when treating anxiety disorders.

It’s usually a short-term therapy option. CBT helps you cope with and manage anxiety symptoms, reframing negative thoughts and behaviours and building a healthier long-term mindset.

How long does anxiety treatment last?

Treatment for anxiety typically lasts a few months. Some people start to see improvements quickly when starting treatment, whereas others may take a little longer to adjust.

Anything between 6-24 therapy sessions is common for anxiety treatment, however, depending on how well you react with treatment, or the severity of your condition, treatment could take longer.

How effective is treatment for anxiety?

Anxiety is very a treatable condition. With appropriate treatment, sufferers will likely be able to manage and minimise their symptoms within months – helping them to regain control of their lives.

How do I get treatment for anxiety at Priory?

World class treatment for anxiety with Priory starts by getting in touch with us. You can send us an online enquiry form, or call us on us on: 0330 056 6020 or a chat about the difficulties you’ve been experiencing.

We can talk about your symptoms, possible treatment options, and arrange for you to come in for an initial assessment at one of our network of mental health hospitals and wellbeing centres.

Anxiety treatment near me

We have anxiety treatment centres located throughout the country, meaning that you can access the support you need in a location that’s convenient for you. To find your nearest anxiety treatment centre, please use the search form below.

Contact us to make an enquiry or for more information

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