Anxiety neurosis is an anxiety disorder that affects approximately 6.8 million American adults every year. Most often referred to as generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, it is one of the most common disorders seen by mental health professionals. Fortunately, there are treatment options for GAD that can be tailored to fit each client's specific needs and preferences.
Medication will not cure GAD, but it can keep the symptoms under control while the patient receives psychotherapy. Medications used for treating GAD include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. However, as different types of drugs have varying side effects, recommended lengths of use, and amount of time before the drugs take effect, it's best to discuss your pharmacological treatment options with your physician or psychiatrist.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is the standard psychotherapy for treating GAD. It helps sufferers to identify, understand, and change faulty thinking and behavior patterns, thus allowing people with GAD to learn how to control their worry. The cognitive part of CBT helps by changing the thinking patterns that create and support fears; the behavioral part helps with changing the way GAD sufferers react to anxiety-provoking situations.
Support groups are an option for anyone seeking help in addition to pharmacological and psycho-therapeutic treatment. While some might find the idea of sharing their problems with strangers or in a group setting undesirable, others find it comforting and helpful. The National Health Information Center's Center for Mental Health Services recommends the mutual support that support groups can offer, claiming that they "play an invaluable role in recovery."
Support groups can include meeting face-to-face with others who live with GAD or online via forum discussion boards and chat rooms.
Complementary & Alternative Treatments
A part of cognitive-behavioral therapy can include learning relaxation techniques. In addition to medication and psychotherapy, your doctor or therapist might suggest activities such as meditation, yoga or other types of physical exercise.
Biofeedback–also known as "applied psycho-physiological feedback"–is another form of treatment that has proven successful for hyperarousal reduction training in GAD. It can be done as part of your CBT sessions or in conjunction with CBT through a therapist who has been trained in administering biofeedback for anxiety disorders.
Multi-modal cognitive-behavioral therapy, which may include biofeedback, has been proven an equally effective alternative to medications, especially for those who don't respond well, have a potential for dependency or addiction or refuse to take prescription drugs.
Finding the Right Combination
A May 2010 study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health introduced a therapy program called Coordinated Anxiety Learning and Management, which demonstrated "significantly greater symptom improvement than usual care." Although many patients tend to favor psychosocial treatment approaches over medication, this research echoes what many clinicians recommend for treating GAD: a combined pharmacology-psychotherapy treatment plan.
As each person's recovery is dependent upon many factors, it's important to give any treatment a fair trial. And because every individual's health, lifestyle and situation are unique, some respond well to one treatment that the next person may not find as effective. If one approach doesn't work, the odds are that another one will.
Is This an Emergency?
- Anxiety Disorders Assoc. of America: GAD–Treatment
- Psychology Today: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (Treatments)
- Nat'l Institute of Mental Health: Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
- Nat'l Institute of Mental Health: Coordinated Treatment Approach Improves Anxiety Symptoms
- Anxiety Disorders Assoc. of America: Getting Support