Effective Treatments that Reduce Anxiety
Everyone has felt stressed or anxious some time, it’s part of being a living human being. However, if you feel your fears and worries have been getting in the way of you from living your life, and that you just can’t relax, you may have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is a common anxiety disorder, and it can be treated. Continue reading along to find information about some self-help tips and professional anxiety treatment.
What is Generalize Anxiety Disorder
GAD’s essential feature as stated in the DSM-V is an “excessive anxiety and worry about a number of events or activities.” Earlier in our blog we wrote a bit about GAD located here, but I will briefly give a shortened list of symptoms and causes.
Persistent, continuous worry
Feeling “on edge” or tense a lot of the time
Difficulties seeing other perspectives to our problems
Muscle tension or trembling
Difficulties falling or staying asleep
Brain structure or chemistry – sometimes the way our brain’s nerve cells are connected, or the amount chemicals released in our brain (neurotransmitters) may affect our mood and anxiety.
It’s in our genes – some studies suggest vulnerability anxiety can be passed down from previous generations in our DNA.
Life circumstances/experiences – changing of job/school, divorce, a death, or experiences of abuse all can contribute to GAD.
Being sleep deprived makes us more vulnerable to anxiety and stress
Self-help is generally a less formal approach to working with GAD, needing very little or no guidance. There are also various self-help books out there for anxiety which are based in different schools of psychotherapy which I will discuss later in this article. While more severe levels of anxiety may need other interventions, I will describe some treatments that can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Having a Good Night’s Sleep
The effects of a good night sleep go beyond helping with anxiety, but it is one thing that can help build resilience with it. Being sleep deprived makes us more vulnerable to anxiety and stress, thus making us more susceptible to being sleep deprived. This can lead to a vicious cycle, so creating a healthy sleep routine is important. Try to stay away from caffeine or backlight screens before bed, as this will make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Maintaining a Balanced Diet
Although more research is needed, and there is no magic diet that will cure anxiety, what we eat can have an effect on both our physical and mental health. For instance, eating protein can help your blood sugar stay constant, as dips in blood sugar can cause feelings of anxiety. Eating complex carbohydrates (like oats, whole grains, or quinoa) help in the production of serotonin which may have a calming effect. Lastly, stay hydrated, as even milder levels of dehydration can affect your mood.
Limiting Caffeine Intake and Other Substance Use
Caffeine and other substances like alcohol or cigarettes have been shown to make our anxiety worse. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants which will, when ingest, increase symptoms of anxiety, while they also can disrupt our sleep. It is very important that we keep track of what we are putting into our body in order to decrease our chances of making things worse.
High caffeinated drinks can worsen anxiety
When anxious your body is in fight-or-flight mode. Exercise is a great way to lean into that and regular exercise can work out that extra tension and stress. Exercise also helps release different neurotransmitters which can help boost your mood. Some exercises that help include:
Walking, Running, or Hiking
Playing sports like tennis or football
Write Down Your Thoughts
Sometimes when we are feeling anxious, our thoughts are running a mile a minute and our head just can’t stop spinning. Writing our thoughts down in a journal or diary is one way to get them out of our head, and can help slow us down. By putting pen to paper and writing out your worrying thoughts you can help find similar relief to your stress like talking to a close friend or partner.
Learning Relaxation Techniques
Just like regular exercise, finding regular, daily ways to relax can go a long way. Exercises like yoga can be a very helpful relaxation technique, but there are various others. I have listed other common techniques below:
Utilizing various self-help strategies can be a great way to help prevent or intervene with difficulties with our anxiety, stress, and worries from getting the best of us, sometimes we may need more professional help. This generally looks like being prescribed medication from your GP or a psychiatrist, engaging in psychotherapy or “talk therapy,” or a combination of both.
Video therapy can be effective in treating anxiety
For some people, this is the first line of defense when they begin to experience high levels of anxiety. Routinely, medications will be prescribed after a discussion with your GP or a psychiatrist. Generally, these medications work by working within your own brain chemistry, altering or working with brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These medications may block or stomp the absorption of these chemicals, or do the opposite and increase the interactions of one or more chemicals. These common types of medications include:
Anxiolytics (such as Benzodiazepine)
Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
MAOIs and Tri-cyclic antidepressants are older types of antidepressants that are sometimes used for GAD, while SNRIs and SSRIs are more common types of antidepressants are more used due to their relative safety. Anxiolytics, like Benzodiazepine or “Benzos,” are a type of antianxiety medication, but are used more cautiously due to their addictive nature. Medication is often a useful tool used to help support us when our symptoms become too much to handle, they serve as a way to stabilize ourselves in order to sometimes work with our underlying causes of depression. This is where psychotherapy comes in.
Psychotherapy for Anxiety
Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” is a popular and another helpful way for us to work through the difficulties we face with GAD. This type of therapy can be provided by various types of mental health professionals, such as psychotherapists or psychologists, and can be provided in differing ways. Below I have described only a few types that are used for GAD:
Generally, this is the standard practice these days for working with GAD both in children and adults. CBT is a usually a short-term, present focused approach, that looks at linking in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to how they maintain your anxiety symptoms. With that in mind, you and your therapist will develop strategies working with these ideas to create a more positive outcome for you.
· Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
This is another type of therapy that comes out of the CBT school of therapies. Therefore, it is also a problem and present focused talk-based therapy. As what is in the name, the therapy looks at accepting your circumstances as well as the thoughts that may be running through your head. It helps by working with words you use inside your head when faced with anxiety. The difference between ACT and CBT is that ACT looks at reducing your battle to get rid of or control unpleasant experiences, and to encourage you to engage in activities that match your own personal values.
· Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT)
EFT is an integrative therapy, meaning it draws from different schools of psychological thought, that has been growing in the body of research as an alternative to the CBT approach. EFT can be utilized as another short-term therapy, working anywhere from 8-20 sessions, and it looks at using emotion to change emotion. Contrary to CBT, EFT looks at guiding the individual through restructuring and transforming difficult emotions through different steps, ultimately leading towards brining inward compassion, creating boundaries, or building assertiveness to their situations.
· Psychodynamic Therapy
This may probably be one of the oldest forms of talk therapy still in use, having its roots back to Freud in the turn of the 20th century. Although much has changed in this school since doing therapy like Freud, it still works with one’s unconscious. This type of therapy looks at creating insight or self-awareness (bringing things to consciousness), as anxieties may be caused by unconscious emotions or experiences that are creating internal conflict. By bringing these things to light you and your therapist will work together to help alleviate your anxieties.
Again, there are various types of talk therapies out there, where this list only provides a few of them. The most important thing is that if you feel you need a bit more help, or that things are out of your control, there are different people and ways of working out there that can help.
Get help with Spectrum and view our range of therapy available in Dublin for Anxiety.
Written by James Brosnan