Anxiety disorders are very common in the general population, affecting around 30% of adults at some point during their lifetime. The good news is that once you accept you have a problem and get a diagnosis, treatments for the various types of anxiety disorders are very effective.
Patients with anxiety benefit from knowing exactly what is going to happen during their treatment, and here we will present a helpful guide to the typical treatment course you will probably experience when you visit TherapyRoute and book a therapist near you.
Medication or not?
Although many patients are reluctant to try medication, the experts urge patients to consider it. The most effective courses of treatment for anxiety start with combining anti-anxiety medications with therapy, and as the therapy progresses, the patient can often wean off the medication. In severe cases, therapy will be rather ineffective unless the patient’s anxiety level has been reduced by medication before attending therapy. Thus, if your psychiatrist or therapist suggests medication, consider trying it. The most common medications include:
- A specific anti-anxiety medication called buspirone
Ask your doctor about the possible side effects and risks as well as the possible benefits before accepting a prescription for anti-anxiety medications.
The initial assessment
Your initial visit with your therapist will be different from the rest of the visits. During the initial visit, the therapist will be more focused on information gathering about your specific case rather than focusing on actually treating you. Also, there is a debate about the right approach to choosing a psychiatrist vs therapist. This may be frustrating since you are eager to get well and get on with life, but your therapist cannot devise an individualized treatment plan for you until specific information has been obtained, such as:
- Specific triggers of your anxiety
- Your current thoughts and feelings about your anxiety
- How your anxiety is adversely affecting your life
How does “just talking” help?
After your initial assessment visit, each therapy session will involve you having a structured conversation with your therapist. Many people are skeptical; how can “just talking” affect my brain? Why can’t I just have a conversation with my friend and achieve the same effect? While to you it may seem like you are just chatting with your therapist, there are many differences between talking with a therapist and talking with a friend, such as:
- A safe space
- Guided conversation
- Changing your perception
- Changing your reaction
A safe space
In order for the therapy process to work, the therapist has to set up a safe space for you. This means when you are in therapy, there is no judgment. Whatever you say will be held in confidence. The therapist will not intrude any of their own religious, moral, or political beliefs into the session. This is very unlike having a conversation with a friend; even a really good friend is likely to become critical and judgmental, and possibly pass on what you say to your other friends.
Although you are free to talk about whatever you want during therapy, a trained therapist will guide the conversation so it revolves around your anxiety issues. The guidance of the therapist combined with your freedom to push the conversation into different directions can lead to profound breakthroughs in understanding why you feel the way you do and why certain things, persons, and situations make you feel anxious.
During these guided conversations, you will begin to understand that your perceptions of situations that cause anxiety may not be accurate perceptions of what is actually happening during these situations. Past traumatic events may be coloring or obscuring your ability to perceive what is actually happening. Being able to accurately perceive the situations that cause anxiety can go a long way toward allowing you to deal with anxiety.
The most important part of therapy is learning that while you can’t control how you feel you can control how you react. Once you have gained some understanding of why you feel anxious in certain situations, your therapist can guide you in learning new ways to react to the situation rather than simply becoming anxious. This learning process can take some time, but once you have changed your reaction you are well on your way to overcoming your anxiety.
How long does it take?
It is hard to estimate how long a course of therapy may take since every individual is different. The average for most anxiety disorders is three to four months including ten to 20 sessions, but this may not apply to you specifically.
Congratulations on taking the hardest step: admitting you have a problem and then seeking help. Anxiety disorders are common and are nothing to be ashamed of. Your therapy will help you regain control of your life and move forward.