When most people think about anxiety treatment, the first thing that comes to mind is medication, right? Well, there is a lot more you can do to manage this problem. From psychotherapy to lifestyle changes, there are many ways to improve anxiety.
We explain more below.
With an effective therapist, psychotherapy offers long-term wellness that is better than meds. It’s also cheaper and leads to fewer relapses. Health experts from Norway suggest therapy as a first-line method for mild to moderate cases.
There are two common forms of psychotherapy; behavioral method and cognitive method. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) refers to the combo of both methods.
The cognitive method helps people change unhealthy thought patterns into healthy ones. For example, if the goal is to treat a panic attack, the person will learn how to reframe the event in their mind.
The behavioral method shows people how to improve bad behavior that occurs due to anxiety. Special breathing is one common practice.
It’s vital to talk to the doctor about the pros and cons of taking meds. One should also think about risks and side effects.
Anti-depressants are useful but they take a few weeks before they work. Doctors use two classes as first-line therapy. These are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These drugs both work with serotonin, which is the feel-good brain chemical that helps people feel happy. It also affects memory, sleep, thinking, and digestion. SNRI drugs work with norepinephrine, another key neurotransmitter.
Side effects can include weight gain, sexual problems, insomnia, and gut issues. The FDA requires that all anti-depressants carry a black box warning stating the risk of suicide, especially for children and young adults under 25.
Doctors prescribe benzos in small to moderate doses. The problem with these is that they may cause dependence when used long-term. They are good for short-term use to relieve acute anxiety and panic attacks.
Examples of benzos include:
- Alprazolam – for acute anxiety and panic attacks
- Lorazepam – for acute anxiety and sleep problems
- Diazepam – for acute anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures
These drugs work on the brain hormone, GABA, which promotes restful sleep, calm, and muscle relaxation. They work by reducing brain activity. This, in turn, eases problems such as worry, rumination, headaches, sweating, muscle tension, and insomnia. The drugs are fast-acting and the effects last a few hours. This makes them useful for short-term relief of anxiety.
Benzos do not help improve mental function as much as anti-depressants do. All benzos are schedule IV controlled substances since they have the potential for abuse. They are not a good choice for people who have addiction problems or suicidal tendencies.
Side effects of benzos include:
- “Hangover effect”
- Strange sleep patterns
- Anterograde amnesia (trouble creating new memories or recalling the past)
People should not use machinery, drive, or drink alcohol while taking these drugs.
Buspirone is a drug that doctors can use to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). They may prescribe it short-term, to treat acute anxiety. It takes a few weeks until they become fully effective.
Do not consume grapefruit or grapefruit juice when you take this drug.
Possible side effects include:
- Dizzy spells
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Trouble sleeping
Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes are a great add-on to any of the above treatments. Working out has a proven benefit for mental health. If you haven’t worked out for a long time, you should try the Kaizen method, where you start with one minute daily. You then go up until you reach at least 20-30 minutes most days of the week.
Also, make sleep a priority. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Get as many hours as possible between 10 pm and 2 am.
Use breathing methods and eat a healthy diet. Avoid alcohol, recreational drugs, and smoking.