Living with an anxiety disorder can be overwhelming when it interferes with your work, family, and friendships. However, effective, evidence-based anxiety treatment methods can provide lasting anxiety relief and, in some cases, result in total freedom from an anxiety disorder.
Even if you’ve tried anxiety treatment before without success, new technologies and interventions continue to be developed that can help people break through their challenges and achieve a lasting recovery. And they can work for you, too — provided you reach out for help.
Anxiety affects millions of people in the United States, with some estimates suggesting nearly a third of the population experiences an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. No one factor causes anxiety. Instead, a constellation of different risk factors can contribute to whether a person goes on to develop an anxiety disorder.
Common risk factors for anxiety include:
- Genetic factors
- Life experiences
- Traumatic events
- Substance misuse
- Medical causes
Like so many other mental illnesses, anxiety is not a choice. It is a condition that develops without your input and can cause a number of different complications and symptoms if not treated appropriately.
Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
The experience of anxiety isn’t always the same, and many people feel the symptoms of anxiety for different reasons. As such, there are several different types of anxiety disorders whose diagnostic criteria describe the different manifestations of anxiety symptoms.
Determining which disorder you face can help you find the anxiety treatment that will work best for you. A mental health professional can assess your symptoms and medical history and tell you whether your anxiety rises to the level of a disorder.
Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders they may consider during the evaluation include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A person with generalized anxiety disorder can experience persistent anxiety in a range of situations. Everything has the potential to create an experience of anxiety that is inappropriate for the situation or more intense than is warranted.
If you excessively worry about even everyday situations, can’t control the feeling of worry when you experience it, and feel stressed about events happening in your life on a regular basis, it could be generalized anxiety disorder. Other symptoms include:
Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Trouble concentrating
- An inability to relax
- Muscle tension
To be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, people need to have shown symptoms for at least six months.
Social Anxiety Disorder
People with social anxiety disorder experience intense fear when they are in certain social situations. They might be worried that they will embarrass themselves, experience excessive self-consciousness, or fear that others will judge them.
When in social situations, a person with this disorder may feel their heart beating rapidly, begin to feel dizzy or lightheaded, start sweating, and may have trouble catching their breath. If you have social anxiety disorder, it can interfere with your work and may prevent you from building meaningful connections with others.
Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder
A substance-induced anxiety disorder is when people experience significant symptoms of anxiety as a result of substance misuse. For example, a person in early recovery from an alcohol use disorder may experience intense anxiety in several situations — but this is likely the result of alcohol withdrawals, not an underlying mental health condition.
If you experience panic attacks, then a panic disorder may be the best diagnosis for your mental health challenges. Panic attacks are sudden waves of fear and worry that can be crippling. They can cause both physical and mental symptoms, such as:
- Thoughts racing out of control
- Chest pain
- Nausea or stomach pain
- Feeling weak, dizzy, or lightheaded
In people with panic disorder, these attacks can happen completely out of the blue or in response to stressful situations. And since the symptoms are so sudden and severe, they are often confused with heart attacks, which can further add to people’s stress and anxiety.
Agoraphobia is a disorder where people fear certain locations or situations, such as public transportation or crowded spaces. For most people living with agoraphobia, it is an excessive worry that being in these situations will lead to a panic attack or crisis, so these spaces are avoided entirely.
People with agoraphobia will go to great lengths to avoid being put into these situations and often have another co-occurring anxiety disorder alongside agoraphobia.
Specific phobias are fears of particular objects, creatures, or situations. A person may have a disproportionate fear of spiders, for instance, which can be incredibly distressing and lead to real disruption in everyday life.
Finding Anxiety Relief
Whatever your particular challenge with anxiety may be, there is hope for your recovery. Every anxiety disorder listed above has effective and evidence-based treatment methods that can help you recover.
This includes both traditional anxiety treatment methods with decades of research supporting their effectiveness as well as innovative techniques that open new paths to anxiety recovery.
Talk therapy is perhaps the most common approach to finding relief from anxiety. Several different styles of therapy can help with anxiety treatment, including methods such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Mindfulness-based therapy
Engaging in one of these styles of therapy can help you learn new ways of managing your emotions, build healthier lifestyle habits for the future, and find support and accountability in your journey toward recovery.
Therapy has a long history of helping people achieve recovery, and if you haven’t tried anxiety treatment with a therapist yet, it might be just what you need in order to find anxiety relief.
Meeting with a psychiatrist to treat your anxiety disorder is another time-tested approach to finding anxiety relief. Several medications can help with different types of anxiety disorders, from fast-acting “rescue” medications that can quickly reverse panic attacks to long-lasting anxiolytics that can stop the sensation of anxiety before it begins.
Stellate Ganglion Blocks
A stellate ganglion block is the injection of a local anesthetic into a bundle of nerves in the lower neck. This treatment can inhibit several of the automatic bodily responses that people can experience during anxiety, resulting in almost instantaneous and long-lasting anxiety relief — particularly for those with co-occurring PTSD.
Ketamine is a medicine that has been used for decades as an anesthetic. Recently, it has been used as a treatment for mental health disorders. At low doses, ketamine works as a dissociative substance that can lead to a feeling of detachment from one’s own body and the surrounding environment.
In the treatment of anxiety disorders, this detachment can be very useful. A small dose of ketamine can help people face their anxieties without fear or worry and address the root cause of the problem. Simply being able to address these challenges without the arousal of anxiety is powerful on its own, but ketamine-assisted healing can do so much more.
A ketamine-assisted healing session takes place with a trained therapist and a specialized medical team. After you receive the dose of ketamine, your therapist will sit with you throughout the entire experience for an individual therapy session.
The ketamine itself can rapidly accelerate the course of therapeutic breakthroughs, accomplishing in a single session what might take weeks or months in traditional therapy.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS)
Deep TMS is a direct approach to healing from anxiety disorders. Using insights gained from neuroscience over the past several decades, scientists have discovered several key brain areas implicated in anxiety disorders.
Specialized equipment used by trained clinicians can directly stimulate regions of the brain that may be underactive and potentially responsible for some of your anxiety.
Deep TMS is a technique that uses magnetic impulses to target these brain regions. A typical Deep TMS process includes several steps, with several cutting-edge pieces of technology guiding the process:
- First, a detailed brain scan can fully map your brain, identifying regions that are candidates for treatment.
- Next, a specialized helmet containing several electromagnets is placed on your head.
- Targeted electromagnetic impulses are sent deep into the brain, activating neurons that are underactive in people with certain anxiety disorders.
Most Deep TMS sessions take between 60 and 90 minutes. They are completely non-invasive, and few people experience significant side effects. And while the stimulation from these magnetic impulses is temporary, it can produce lasting results.
When neurons fire, they build pathways between one another that make it more likely for them to fire in that order again. Within just a few Deep TMS sessions, this can create lasting pathways that help people break away from anxiety. Deep TMS can be used as a solo treatment or in conjunction with talk therapy or psychiatric medications.
Anxiety Relief Is Possible
Whether you’re seeking treatment for anxiety for the first time or you’ve tried several treatments without success, there is hope for tangible anxiety relief. The science of anxiety treatment continues to grow, with innovations and refinements of classic treatment options that make it easier than ever before to find one that works for you.
It is possible to successfully reduce your symptoms and lead a healthier, more productive, and less anxious life.
- “Anxiety Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders#part_2222. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.
- Bandelow, Borwin et al. “Treatment of anxiety disorders.” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience vol. 19,2 (2017): 93-107. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2017.19.2/bbandelow