The most common anxiety treatments in the UK are those used routinely within the NHS. Unfortunately, in an effort to treat more people, there has been a tendency in recent years for the focus to be on immediate reduction of symptoms rather than on teaching understanding and long-term cures.
I have explained elsewhere that in order to overcome anxiety problems for good, it is vital for the sufferer to understand and accept what's going on. They will then be able to put into practice what's needed to change.
Many sufferers need the mechanisms behind their anxiety explained to them by a professional. Nevertheless, there is much guidance available in books and on the web for those who wish to help themselves, some of it more reliable than others.
A general guideline to follow is that if you are going it alone, whatever you are doing shouldn't increase your anxiety in any way whilst you carry out the instructions. If it does then that approach is probably not suitable for you to use as a form of self help.
The Most Common Anxiety Treatments
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is accredited as an evidence-based therapy by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) whose guidelines are used within the NHS.
This means that there is recognised scientific evidence that it works in an experimental context.
When people undertake to overcome their anxieties using a CBT approach they are taught to recognise the unhelpful thoughts they have which trigger their anxieties and to challenge these thoughts and come to see them as irrational.
There are also some very good self help books explaining how to use CBT to overcome anxiety for anyone who wishes to do it for themselves.
Some people find this approach helpful. For others, however, the process of challenging creates more unease than it cures. For me this approach entails struggle. I prefer an easier, more comfortable approach.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
The basis for EMDR was devised by Francine Shapiro, an American Psychologist. The idea developed from an experience she had whilst walking through a park in the late 1980's.
She had scary thoughts and found herself glancing around with a series of rapid eye movements. This, she noticed, helped reduce her negative feelings. Further research and experimentation resulted in EMDR therapy.
During EMDR treatment the patient holds a particular negative thought, image and feeling firmly in mind whilst carrying out various eye movements as instructed by the therapist.
EMDR is accredited by NICE in the UK (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) for treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is often effective for those who are not usually prone to anxiety but who have experienced a specific trauma. The patient has to imagine the scariest part of their experience as vividly as possible during the treatment and many patients are not able to bring themselves to do this. Thus it is not suitable for everyone but is effective for those who are prepared to do it.
Medication for Anxiety
Anxiety Medication is not my area of expertise as I am not medically qualified. I do, however, have many years' experience of treating clients psychologically whilst they are also being prescribed anti-anxiety medication.
Because of the way in which the survival instinct works and keeps reminding us of those instances where we have felt negative arousal, medication is unlikely to ever teach the survival instinct new habits. It is down to the individual to consciously change their own thinking habits.
Sometimes, however, especially in cases of severe PTSD or severe Acute Anxiety Disorder, the sufferer may be too distressed to be able to focus their thoughts usefully. In cases such as these anxiety medication is often helpful to lower their arousal levels so as to enable them to be able to think and engage with psychological therapy.
I have already mentioned that, when I had my own brief Acute Anxiety State, I used an occasional diazepam tablet but only after I'd done my best to apply different thinking techniques and failed.
I generally tried to never take medication when at home.
I advise people that, if they are going to take medication to control anxiety, they use the reduced arousal it gives to take charge of their thoughts and use the situation as a positive learning experience, a means of teaching yourself some of the better thinking habits which are needed for a full and permanent recovery.
As they recover, many sufferers like to carry a tablet of diazepam with them just in case they panic and lose control. I did this for many years. Just knowing you have it gives you the confidence to let go of your fears.
Another situation for which I often suggest a client might seek a prescription for diazepam from their doctor is if they have to do something out of the ordinary with which they feel unable to cope. A common instance is when a panic attack sufferer has to go to the dentist.
There is nothing wrong with taking a tablet for just that visit and then when at the dentist, applying any mind control techniques you have been taught. In this way you are using the calming power of the anxiety medication to help you learn a better approach. Eventually your survival instinct will then start to associate positive thoughts and feelings with being at the dentist instead of the negative ones, and gradually you will be able to do it without the medication.
Diazepam is a wonderful tool in the treatment of anxiety disorders but it must be used alongside psychological therapy if it is to be beneficial. It can't be taken on a regular basis as it is addictive.