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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

effective treatments for anxiety

How is anxiety treated?

Anxiety 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.

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. Treating anxiety with CBT has been found to result in long-lasting benefits and provides you with effective coping mechanisms for the future.

As well as CBT and exposure techniques, we also offer a number of other types of talking therapies to treat anxiety.

Treatment at Priory can be delivered in a number of different formats, including:

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

Getting professional help for your anxiety is absolutely crucial. Depending on how severe your anxiety is and the level of support you need, we are able to provide you with tailored and appropriate care.

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.

Different types of anxiety disorders

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

GAD is the most common form of anxiety disorder and people with GAD will experience extreme levels of anxiety most of the time.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety, also known as ‘social phobia’, is a type of anxiety that affects people in social situations, often creating extreme levels of fear when around others.

Postpartum anxiety

As the body changes during pregnancy, anxiety can develop any time from the beginning of pregnancy to the first year after birth.

Health anxiety

Health anxiety means that you are often excessively worrying about your health and the possibility of becoming ill.

Other types of anxiety include:

  • Panic disorder - getting regular panic attacks without explanation
  • Separation anxiety - feeling distressed when someone is separated from someone they're close to
  • Phobias - experiencing extreme fear around a certain object or situation
  • Agoraphobia - a fear of any scenario in which escape might be difficult
  • PTSD - anxiety can develop after going through a traumatic event
  • OCD - having a series of obsessions and compulsions
  • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) - a series of obsessions and compulsions related to physical appearance 

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.

Moving forward: Paul's recovery story

"I've found the experience really good. I hope to come out of the experience with the clarity and strength to move forward."

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