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Treatment Approaches for Anxiety Disorders

The treatment of anxiety disorders is variable and will be directly linked to thenature and severity of the anxiety being experienced by the person. As mentionedabove, anxiety is one of the most treatable psychiatric disorders. However, it mustalso be remembered that anxiety may coexist in the presence of other psychologicaldisorders, such as depression. All this information must be considered when treatinganxiety disorders. It is suggested that a full assessment of needs is carried out priorto any treatment regimes being implemented in order to establish exactly what needsto be treated, why it needs to be treated and how it is going to be effectively dealtwith (Donald et al. 2001). When considering the treatment of anxiety disorders,it is possible that some treatments can be used in conjunction with each other toattain and maintain maximum benefits.


‘Relaxation training’ (or ‘relaxation technique’, as it is also known) involves trainingthe person about the importance of regular relaxation of the body’s muscles andmaking the person more aware of their posture. This is beneficial in mild to moderate anxiety states because it allows respite to the already tense muscles andencourages the person to relax different areas of the body at different times. Initially, the person will need support and guidance to ensure the correcttechnique is being learned. Once this has been achieved, the person can continuethis technique in their own time and can use this to their advantage.


When considering the anxiety cycle, breathing is one aspect that increases withexposure to a stressful stimulus. A problem associated with increased breathingis that of hyperventilation, where the body has a higher than needed level ofoxygen. The person uses their abdominal muscles as opposed to the upper chestmuscles. When the person encounters an anxious situation, it is essential thatthe breathing rate and rhythm are controlled. Compared to relaxation training,appropriate breathing exercises can be taught and can be used as necessary indealing effectively with mild to moderate anxiety. The aim of breathing exercisesis to make the person aware of the importance of their breathing pattern and todemonstrate the efficacy of this technique when faced with an anxious situation.However, it is essential that these are practised at least twice a day for up to 30minutes at a time to gain optimum benefit. Once an acceptabletechnique has been learned and adopted, the person could practise these exercises,even while carrying out daily routines.


In dealing with mild anxiety and associated depression, the use of person-centredcounselling is effective. This allows the person to explorethe problems associated with the anxiety which he/she is currently experiencing.Central to the idea of person-centred counselling are the ideas of empathy, warmth,genuineness and unconditional positive regard, the latter being a method of allowingthe person to openly discuss their thoughts and feelings without feeling intimidatedor threatened. However, it is essential that theperson does not become dependent on the counsellor to provide all of the answersto their problems. If this happens, the counsellor should possess skills to interveneaccordingly. Person-centred counselling usually occurs weekly, and the nature andseverity of the anxiety state determines the duration of this intervention. This interventioncan allow the person to explore their own thoughts and feelings surroundingtheir anxiety with a view to supporting problem-solving abilities. Asa result of this, the person should be able to adopt more capable ways of living,with or without the continued professional support of the mental health services.


This is the simplest form of psychotherapy and can be effective in treating mildto moderate anxiety. It allows freedom of speech around the person concerning their problems and symptoms. Following disclosure by theperson, it is the therapist who suggests coping methods related to dealing withproblems. This is regarded as lessening the psychological load for the person withthe intention of allowing them a reprieve from their worries. It also intends to boostthe person’s performance while emphasising the importance of adopting copingstrategies. However, dependency on the therapist must always be discouraged asthis would defeat the purpose of the therapy. Supportive psychotherapy engagesthe person, assists with the articulation of thoughts and feelings and encouragesthe development of their problem-solving abilities by means of reflection. It alsoencourages the person to be proactive as opposed to passive in dealing with problems;hence cooperation on the person’s part is essential.


It is suggested that behaviour therapy shows great benefits in dealing with phobiasand obsessive-compulsive disorders. Behaviour therapy focuses on altering thereaction provoked by anxiety by means of acquiring new skills when dealing withperceived problems. This involves direct exposure to the problem,and it can be rapid (known as ‘flooding’) or gradual (known as ‘desensitisation’). The behaviour of the person is analysed, taking intoaccount their thoughts and feelings before, during and after the incident. Positivereactions are reinforced with negative reactions being managed by further trainingand recognition of the stimulus that is causing the anxiety. The person is encouragedto take on some responsibility and ownership within behaviour therapy. This isdone by keeping diaries and written evidence relating to activity schedules that theperson has undertaken. From this, the person can develop a better understandingof the problems they are experiencing, and this assists both parties in effectivelydealing with the presenting problems.

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4 Responses to “Treatment Approaches for Anxiety Disorders”

  • Machiri says:

    I loved the article great knowledge and awareness about our mind and body health

  • A great piece that help many people to manage anxiety disorders.

  • Running through this article, its clear that anxiety disorder can be best solved not through medication but more from other approaches e.f. relaxation, counselling etc.

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