Anxiety Disorders | NAMI

Anxiety Disorders

Once it is clear there is no underlying physical condition present or medication side effect causing your anxiety, then exploring options for mental health treatment is essential.


The types of treatment proven to be most effective for many people experiencing an anxiety disorder involve a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Your preferences in a treatment plan are essential, however, so discuss the best approaches and options with your treatment team.


Co-occurring conditions, like depression, are common when a person has anxiety. Be sure to work with your treatment team to make sure these other conditions are not overlooked.




Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most researched psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. In general, CBT focuses on finding the counterproductive thinking patterns that contribute to anxiety. CBT offers many constructive strategies to reduce the beliefs and behaviors that lead to anxiety.


CBT is also effective when delivered outside of the traditional in-person setting. Working with a therapist using telehealth technology — like video or phone calls or online learning modules that teach CBT concepts — can be just as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy.


CBT has the largest research base to support its effectiveness, though it can be difficult to figure out which therapists are trained in CBT. There is no single national certification program for this skill. Ask your therapist how they approach treating anxiety and their trainings in these approaches.


Exposure Response Prevention is a psychotherapy for specific anxiety disorders like phobias and social anxiety. Its aim is to help a person develop a more constructive response to a fear. The goal is for a person to “expose” themselves to that which they fear, in an attempt to experience less anxiety over time and develop effective coping tools.




Some people find that medication is helpful in managing an anxiety disorder. Talk with your health care provider about the potential benefits, risks and side effects.


  • Anti-anxiety medications. Certain medications work solely to reduce the emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety. Benzodiazepines can be effective for short-term reduction of symptoms, but can create the risk of dependence when used for a long time. Be sure to review these potential risks if you select these medicines. Click here for more information on these medications.
  • Antidepressants. Many antidepressants may also be useful for treating anxiety. These can also be useful if your anxiety has a co-occurring depression. Be sure to check our Medication page for more information.

Complementary Health Approaches


More and more people have started using complementary and alternative treatments along with conventional treatment to help with their recovery. Some of the most common approaches for treating anxiety include:


  • Self-management strategies, such as allowing for specific periods of time for worrying. Someone who becomes an expert on their condition and its triggers gains more control over their day.
  • Stress and Relaxation Techniques often combine breathing exercises and focused attention to calm the mind and body. These techniques can be an important component in treating phobias or panic disorder.
  • Yoga. The combination of physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation found in yoga have helped many people improve the management of their anxiety disorder.
  • Exercise. Aerobic exercise can have a positive effect on your stress and anxiety. Check with your primary care doctor before beginning an exercise plan.


Reviewed December 2017

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