Psychotherapy and Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety has two faces. On the one hand, mild anxiety helps us stay focused and alert while facing challenging or threatening situations. On the other hand, irrational anxiety causes severe distress and disrupts the lives of people suffering from it. The intensity and regularity of anxiety involved in anxiety disorders can be very devastating. Fortunately, advances in psychotherapy make these disorders treatable.

Why should people seek treatment for anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders can have unimaginable consequences if left untreated. For instance, some people suffering from these disorders exhibit avoidance behavior, which may be conflicting with family obligations, job requirements, or other common, daily activities. These may result in faltering job performance and strained relationships with friends, family, and co-workers.

In addition, many people with untreated anxiety disorders are at risk of developing other psychological disorders like depression. They are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.  

What is the role of psychotherapy in treating anxiety disorders?

Appropriately trained mental health professionals use psychotherapy in treating anxiety disorders. Psychotherapy provides people with the opportunity to recognize and learn to control the factors that contribute to anxiety.

There are a number of approaches to this kind of "talk therapy" that can help people address their problems with anxiety: psychodynamic, interpersonal, cognitive-behavioral, and other kinds of therapy. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that both cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy can be very effective as treatments for anxiety disorders.

The objective of the cognitive therapy is for individuals with anxiety disorders to understand how their thought patterns worsen the symptoms of the disorders and what to do with these patterns in order to lessen the likelihood of the intensity and the occurrence of reaction.

On the other hand, behavioral therapy uses methods to reduce or impede the undesired behavior related to anxiety disorders. For instance, one approach to behavioral therapy involves training patients how to relax and how to do deep breathing methods to offset the hyperventilation and agitation associated with some anxiety disorders.

How long does psychotherapy take?

It does not take a day or two for psychotherapy to work. Such treatment for anxiety disorder does not work in a blink of an eye. Within 8 to 10 sessions, however, there should be a noticeable improvement in the patient, especially if he or she carefully follows the outlined psychotherapy plan. The improvement depends, of course, on the severity of the condition.

What is the importance of patient-therapist collaboration?

Patients should be very comfortable from the beginning with the proposed general treatment as well as with the psychotherapist with whom they are working. They also need to be cooperative if they want the treatment to work. Also, there should be strong patient-therapist team collaboration for more effective and successful treatment.