This blog post was written by Christy Johnson, Counselor at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivati platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here.
As a licensed therapist, I am accustomed to answering questions about people’s mental health concerns. There are a few questions—including some about anxiety—that come up repeatedly across different clients. When this happens, it can be helpful for clients to know that their questions are not unusual and that they are not alone. For this reason, talking about anxiety can help normalize some of the common causes of worry and confusion that many people have. In this article, I will discuss some of the most common questions clients ask me about anxiety.
It is important to start by saying that anxiety is a normal and adaptive emotion that helps us cope with stress and danger. When anxiety becomes excessive, persistent, or irrational, it may interfere with our daily functioning and overall wellbeing. If you experience anxiety, you are not alone: anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems, and there is significant evidence to show that anxiety is treatable.
If you are struggling with anxiety, you may have many questions about how to manage it and what kind of therapy can help you. In this article, I aim to address some of those questions by shedding light on some of the most common questions that clients ask me about anxiety and anxiety therapy.
I think I have anxiety, but I’m not sure. How can I tell?
Start by reaching out for support if you need it. If you feel that you are struggling with anxiety and are not able to cope with your experience on your own, please reach out to a licensed counselor or therapist for one-on-one help.
For readers ready to begin exploring their anxiety experience on their own, I recommend keeping a handwritten journal or a log in your phone notes of the symptoms you are experiencing that you feel may be related to anxiety. You will want to keep track of your mental state, including the thoughts that make you feel anxious. You can do this by naming or labeling the thoughts and noting how often they occur and how distressing they are. Using a scale of 1 to 10 can be very helpful here. You will also want to watch your mood and keep track of things like irritability, a short temper, or a sense of being overwhelmed. Finally, note any physical symptoms like upset stomach, tense shoulders, tremors, or any other body signals you feel may be related to your anxiety.
Keeping a log of your mental, emotional, and physical experiences will help you investigate and determine how to proceed. You may learn from your log that you are anxious mostly on Mondays and need extra self-care or breaks on those days. Perhaps you will discover that you are struggling more than you realized and could use some time with a therapist; if you go this route, your log will let you share detailed notes about your experiences which will help your clinician accurately diagnose and support you.
Another way you can begin to understand your anxious behavior is to take an evidence-based measurement of your symptoms by filling out an online screening for anxiety. Here is one such example from Mental Health America. Measures such as these are wonderful because there is research behind them to support their use, and they are reliable and generally an accurate way to get a first look at what may be going on. Measures such as these are not the equivalent of having a formal diagnosis, though, which requires observation over a period of time while working with a licensed clinical professional.
How can I cope with anxiety?
By far, the most common question I get about anxiety is how to deal with it. There are many ways to cope with anxiety, depending on the situation and your personal preferences. Some of the general strategies that can help you reduce anxiety include:
- Engaging in breathing exercises: Taking slow and deep breaths can calm your nervous system and lower your heart rate and blood pressure. This post discusses the benefits of breathing exercises and provides examples to begin practicing now.
- Questioning your thought patterns: Sometimes, anxiety can make you think negatively and exaggerate the risks or dangers of a situation. Try to challenge your fears and ask yourself if they are realistic or helpful.
- Getting enough sleep: Lack of sleep can worsen anxiety and affect your mood, concentration, and memory. Try to get at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. Learn more about the importance of sleep for wellbeing here.
- Relaxation techniques: Practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and similar methods can help you relax your body and mind.
- Seeking support: Talking to someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, or therapist, can help you express your feelings and gain emotional support.
How can I find a good therapist for anxiety?
Finding a good therapist for anxiety can be challenging but extremely rewarding when you find a clinician who understands your goals and how to help you. Here are some tips to help you find a therapist who suits your needs:
- Do some research: You can use online directories or websites to search for therapists who specialize in anxiety disorders. You can contact your company's HR department or insurance company for a list of covered services and providers. You can also ask for referrals from your primary care doctor, friends, family members, or other trusted sources.
- Check their credentials: Look for a therapist who has relevant training and experience in treating anxiety disorders. You should also read their professional bio and check their reviews or ratings from previous clients if available.
- Get to know them: Contact potential therapists by phone or email to ask about their availability, fees, insurance coverage, cancellation policy, and other practical details. Ask about their approach to therapy and how they can help you with your specific concerns.
- Schedule a consultation: Consider scheduling consultations with one or more therapists to see if you feel comfortable with them. You should use this opportunity to ask any questions you have about their background, methods, expectations, and outcomes. You can also expect to share some information about yourself and your goals for therapy.
- Trust your instincts: Trust how you feel in the sessions, and look out for signs of safety and comfort. The therapeutic relationship is very important for establishing trust and rapport in sessions. Without therapeutic rapport, it is very difficult to open up about the emotional and lifestyle content necessary for therapy to be effective.
Finding a therapist who is qualified, experienced, and compatible with your needs and preferences may take some time and effort, but it is worth it in the long run. Remember that you are not alone in your struggle with anxiety and that help is available.
What are the effective treatments for anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are treatable conditions that can be effectively managed with evidence-based interventions. Treatments can vary and each individual will find that they respond better to some methods than others. Treatment requires investment on the part of the client to try new things with earnestness and consistency.
The most common and effective treatments for anxiety disorders include:
This involves talking to a trained mental health professional who can help clients understand the causes and effects of their anxiety disorders, challenge their negative thoughts and beliefs, and learn coping skills and strategies to reduce anxiety symptoms.
The most widely used form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on changing maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaving that maintain anxiety. CBT is considered the “gold standard” for anxiety treatment because of its research backing and proven effectiveness.
This involves taking prescribed drugs that can help reduce the severity and frequency of anxiety symptoms by affecting brain chemistry. The most commonly used types of medication for anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Medication should be used in conjunction with psychotherapy and under the guidance of a medical doctor.
This involves making healthy choices that can improve your physical and mental wellbeing and reduce stress levels. Some examples of lifestyle changes that can help with anxiety disorders include exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs, practicing relaxation techniques, and seeking social support.
How long does anxiety therapy take?
There is no definitive answer to how long anxiety therapy takes because it depends on many factors such as the type and severity of your anxiety disorder, your motivation, your relationship with your therapist, the treatment modality used, the frequency and duration of your therapy sessions, and the goals and outcomes you want to achieve. However, some general guidelines can help estimate how long anxiety therapy might take.
According to the American Psychological Association, most people who receive psychotherapy for anxiety disorders see improvement within 12 to 16 sessions. However, some people may need more or fewer sessions depending on their individual needs and progress. Some people may also benefit from booster sessions or maintenance therapy after completing their initial course of treatment to prevent relapse or address new challenges.
Medication for anxiety disorders can also vary in how long it takes to work and how long it needs to be taken. Some medications may start working within a few weeks, while others may take longer to show effects. Some medications may need to be taken for a few months, while others may need to be taken for more extended periods or indefinitely. The decision to start, stop, or change medication should always be made in consultation with your doctor.
Ultimately, the length of anxiety therapy depends on your personal situation and preferences. The best way to determine how long anxiety therapy will take for you is to discuss it with your therapist and doctor and review your progress and goals regularly. Anxiety therapy is not a quick fix, but a process that requires commitment, patience, and collaboration. However, the benefits of anxiety therapy can be lasting and life changing.
I hope that this discussion of the commonly asked questions about anxiety provided some insight into how to cope and what your options for treatment might be. I encourage you to be patient and have self-compassion as you begin to explore your experience. Don’t expect perfection or instant results. Don’t compare yourself to others or criticize yourself for having anxiety. Don’t give up when things get hard or uncomfortable. Instead, acknowledge your progress and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Recognize your strengths and values and treat yourself with kindness and respect.
You deserve to live a fulfilling and meaningful life, free from excessive anxiety.
By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take the place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.