Don’t Worry, Be Happy: How Therapy Can Help Relieve Anxiety
Whether you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, or excessive anxiety, you’re not alone. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental disorders in the United States, with approximately 19.1% of adults experiencing an anxiety disorder in the last year.
Fortunately, anxiety disorders are highly treatable, and for many anxiety disorders, therapy is the most effective treatment. Unlike medications, therapy for anxiety disorders treats more than just the physical symptoms of anxiety. Therapy can help you identify the root cause of your worries, learn how to live in the present moment, and develop better ways to deal with stress. In other words, therapy helps you learn valuable coping skills and teaches you how to use them in your daily life.
Types of Therapy for Anxiety Disorders
All types of anxiety disorders have a unique set of symptoms and challenges, and your therapist should tailor your treatment to your specific anxiety symptoms and mental health diagnosis. For example, if you have separation anxiety disorder, your mental health needs will differ from someone with social phobia or selective mutism. With that said, some common types of therapy used to treat anxiety disorders include the following:
- Psychodynamic therapy: Psychodynamic therapy can help you resolve negative behavioral patterns rooted in past experiences. Therapy sessions typically involve open-ended questions and free association to uncover unconscious patterns of behavior. Through therapy, you’ll learn how to overcome unhelpful behaviors and feelings that may be triggering your anxiety.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT): IPT can help you identify interpersonal relationship issues, such as conflicts with family or friends. Through IPT, you’ll learn healthy ways to improve your communication skills and express emotions in social interactions.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): As the most common type of therapy for anxiety disorders, cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for panic disorder, specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), among other mental disorders. CBT relies on the premise that our thoughts—not external events—affect the way we feel. In other words, it’s not the situation that affects your feelings but your perception of the situation.
- Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy exposes you to the situations or objects you fear. Through gradual, repeated exposures, you’ll gain an increasing sense of control over the situation, and your anxiety symptoms will diminish. Your therapist may ask you to imagine a feared situation, or you may confront it in real life.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR): EMDR treats anxiety by replacing negative emotional reactions to difficult memories with more positive reactions. During EMDR, you’ll perform a series of back-and-forth, repetitive eye movements to change these negative emotional reactions. EMDR can be especially helpful for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although individual therapy is typically the first-line treatment for anxiety disorders, psychologists sometimes use other approaches in addition to one-on-one talk therapy.
For example, group psychotherapy, which connects individuals with anxiety disorders, can provide a valuable source of social support for individuals with panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other types of anxiety disorders. Sometimes, therapists also use complementary therapies, such as mindfulness meditation, to reduce stress and help you achieve emotional balance.
Benefits of Therapy for Anxiety
Psychotherapy for anxiety disorders involves a collaborative process, where therapists and clients work together to identify specific mental health concerns and develop skills to cope with anxiety symptoms. Therapy is hard work, and you might feel more anxious before you start feeling better. During your first few sessions, feeling worse can signify progress, as therapy helps you navigate difficult emotions in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Through therapy, you’ll better understand how your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs contribute to your anxiety symptoms. By learning how to change your mindset, you’ll reduce the likelihood and intensity of your psychological and physical anxiety symptoms. Ultimately, therapy can help you gain confidence, feel more comfortable in social situations, and reduce stress in your everyday life.
Finding the Right Therapist
Whether you’re seeking treatment for social anxiety or experiencing anxiety symptoms after a traumatic event, it’s essential to find the right therapist. Although opening up to a stranger can feel intimidating, working with someone you feel comfortable with can make all the difference in the success of your treatment.
To find the best fit, reach out to a licensed therapist through The Therapy Group of NYC. We know that starting therapy can feel overwhelming, and our compassionate, experienced mental health professionals are available to help you every step of the way. We’ll help you understand your symptoms, build resilience, and develop the tools you need to live a happy, less worried life.