If you suffer from anxiety, you know how important it is to get immediate help. Right now you are stuck managing your anxiety and trying to live every day through the disabling physical and mental symptoms of your anxiety condition. It's stressful, and no doubt you've tried to find as many ways as possible to stop anxiety on your own.
Ideally, you want to commit to the best treatment for anxiety there is, so that you are not wasting time with a treatment that doesn't work. In this article, we'll explore the best treatments for anxiety based on what you are looking for.
Find the BEST Treatment For You
The truth is that each person reacts to each treatment differently. What matters is that YOUR symptoms have been examined, and that you are given a treatment plan to combat them. Find out how to cure your anxiety with my free 7 minute anxiety test.
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Different Disorders, Different Treatments
In some ways there is no such thing as a best treatment. There are different types of anxiety disorders, different anxiety intensity, and different ways that people respond to the way that they're treated. Start with my anxiety test first before moving forward, as it will give you some of these answers.
That said, there are generally some effective ways to control anxiety. Much of it depends on what you are looking for in terms of treatment types. We'll break the different types of treatments down in the following article, and then explain what we feel is the best type of treatment in that category.
Best Therapy for Anxiety
The best therapy for anxiety is without a doubt cognitive behavioral therapy. Don't let marketers of unusual therapeutic techniques tell you anything otherwise. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, has received thousands upon thousands of papers of research, and is based on genuine psychological principles. Only CBT has been studied and proven effective in clinical trials.
CBT can be expensive, and it requires that you show a willingness to commit. It doesn't provide immediate change, but does provide you with gradual change that can assist you in controlling your anxiety in the future. Therapy may not be for everyone, but those that want to work with a therapist should choose a CBT oriented therapist first.
Best Medicine for Anxiety
Anxiety medications are generally not recommended, and not just because prescription medications have received such a bad reputation in recent years. The truth is that anxiety medications specifically can cause several problems that make them less-than-ideal for most anxiety sufferers:
- Anxiety medications tend to cause addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
- Anxiety medications dull emotions rather than relieving anxiety.
- Anxiety medications can cause personality changes.
- Anxiety medications may lead to severe drowsiness and energy loss.
- Anxiety medications often have mild to severe physical and mental side effects.
Many anxiety medications also become tolerated over time, requiring you to switch to a different medication that may also cause side effects. They can also lead to psychological dependency, causing you to struggle to control your anxiety whenever you are without the medicine - worse than before you started taking the medicine.
With that in mind, the best medicine for anxiety is likely to be buspirone. Buspirone is not for everyone and not recommended for severe anxiety, but it has few side effects and doesn't lead to any addiction or withdrawal symptoms. Most find it too weak for their anxiety, but others find that it's all they need. Talk to your doctor before taking any medications.
Best Herbal Medicine For Anxiety
Those that prefer to go the more natural route may decide that they want some type of herbal medicine or supplement. Herbal supplements have mixed reviews for anxiety, but one of them stands out from the pack.
That herb is kava. Kava has received bad press recently as a result of some studies in the early 2000's that linked it to liver damage. For this reason, you never want to take kava without talking to your doctor first. But subsequent studies showed that kava interacts with alcohol, and many of those with liver damage were abusing alcohol at the time of their kava use.
Kava itself is one of the few herbal remedies supported in the research and showing a clear anti-anxiety benefit. Kava compared favorably to popular anxiety medications, and yet kava:
- Has no known side effects.
- Can be taken as needed rather than daily.
- Does not cause addiction or withdrawal.
Make sure you take kava as directed. Most kava is sold in doses too small to experience any effects, or prepared in a way that dilutes their benefits. Discuss kava with your doctor, especially if you are taking any medications or are someone that has or will consume alcohol.
Best Alternative Anxiety Treatment
Alternative treatments are a dime a dozen, and unfortunately a lot of them utilize the placebo effect. The more you believe that they work, the more likely they are to work. In fact, even those that are skeptical can be prone to the placebo effect because their minds try to notice changes to such a degree that changes take place.
So alternative therapies and anxiety treatments are a bit risky. Rarely will any of them cause any harm, but:
- Little research has been conducted to show whether or not they are effective.
- What studies have been conducted are often completed poorly.
- If a therapy works because of placebo, does that matter?
The last question is the big one. If you are cured of your anxiety, does it really matter if you are suffering from placebo or not? And what if there is a therapy that works, but simply hasn't gotten the attention it deserves?
The best way to think about it is that if it looks too good to be true, it almost always is. You should also strongly consider avoiding alternative treatments if your anxiety is too severe or if you suffer from depression, as you don't want these conditions to get worse because you committed to an insufficient treatment.
Yet one alternative treatment does stand out, and that treatment is yoga.
Yoga is unique, in that beyond simply the spiritual component, there are genuine benefits of yoga on anxiety. First is exercise. Anxiety is more likely in those that don't exercise, and exercise is known to relieve anxiety to some degree. Yoga is a type of exercise, thus decreasing the likelihood of suffering from that problem.
Second, yoga requires better breathing, and many people with anxiety suffer from very poor breathing habits as a result of their anxious condition. Bad breathing is one of the key causes of anxiety symptoms, so yoga essentially "retrains" the body to breathe better.
Finally, yoga is social and active, and ensures that you are neither moping nor alone during times of anxiety. Add to those benefits the idea that yoga may have a spiritual component that is useful for anxiety as well and yoga becomes potentially the best alternative anxiety treatment available.
Best At Home Treatment for Anxiety
Most people want to treat their anxiety at home, and are looking for the best at home anxiety treatment. In this case, the answer is a bit more complex.
First, you need to start exercising. Exercise is far more important than those suffering from anxiety realize. It's not simply for fitness. Exercise has very real benefits for your mental health.
You'll also want to consider things like desensitization therapy, which you can do in the comfort of your own home (but are best completed under an expert's supervision).
But no matter what, you need to base your at home treatment on your symptoms.
In order to get the best anxiety treatment tailored for your specific needs, take my free 7 minute anxiety test. It will compare your anxiety to others suffering from the same symptoms and use that information to recommend the best treatment for you.
Borkovec, T. D., and Ellen Costello. Efficacy of applied relaxation and cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 61.4 (1993): 611.
Goldberg, Harold L., and Richard J. Finnerty. The comparative efficacy of buspirone and diazepam in the treatment of anxiety. The American journal of psychiatry (1979).
Pittler, Max H., and Edzard Ernst. Efficacy of kava extract for treating anxiety: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology 20.1 (2000): 84-89.
Gupta, Nidhi, et al. Effect of yoga based lifestyle intervention on state and trait anxiety. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 50.1 (2006): 41.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.