If you have an anxiety disorder, you may feel alone in your troubles, as if no one can understand the crushing worry and fear you feel. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you’re in good company — 40 million Americans experience anxiety disorders.
Types of Therapy
Therapy comes in many different forms. If you’re shy or prefer to be alone, individual therapy could be for you. Otherwise, you might feel more comfortable in group therapy where shared experiences can inspire you. Whatever you choose, there’s a variety of options to choose from when seeking help. Here are some of the ways you can find help and support for treating your anxiety.
One of the most popular and highly-effective forms of anxiety therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. In CBT, patients and therapists work together to focus on identifying, understanding, and changing thinking and behavior patterns. In therapy, patients take an active role in their own recovery, learning skills that must be continually practiced. This often includes “homework” between sessions. Improvements are usually noticed between 12 to 16 weeks.
Other forms of treatment of anxiety include exposure therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Find a therapist at the Anxiety and Depression Association of American database or at Psychology Today.
Group therapy typically includes anywhere from five to fifteen people who meet to discuss a common issue — in this case, anxiety — and are led by a trained therapist. The group might be inclusive to all types of anxieties or it might focus specifically on one disorder, such as social phobia or separation anxiety. Over the course of an hour or 90 minutes, participants will share their experiences, and the leader will offer suggestions for coping strategies. You can find local groups at Psychology Today and Mental Health America.
If you live in a rural area, are agoraphobic, or have other emotional, physical, or lifestyle challenges that make leaving the house for a group therapy session impossible, the convenience of an online support group might be for you. The Anxiety and Depression Association of American offers an online support group for free. Other groups, such as the peer-based Anxiety Tribe or Pacifica are also available.
Text-based therapy is having a bit of a cultural moment. In this new form of therapy, users can message their therapist at any time, and the therapist will reply once or twice a day. You can schedule a “live text” session — like instant messaging — but that’s not the primary use of text-based therapy. Text-based therapy isn’t time-tested or supported by a ream of research yet, though there is promise.
In a 2018 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, Columbia researchers looked at 267 clients with anxiety or depression (there was no control group) that use Talkspace. After 90 days on the platform, two-thirds had recovered or improved. The study was also underwritten by leading text therapy company, Talkspace. Still, there’s a lot left to learn, D’Arcy Reynolds, assistant professor of psychology at Southeast Missouri State University, told the New York Times Wirecutter. “Does it have the critical mass of research so that I can say without hesitation that it can be efficacious? No.”
Ask for Help
It’s easier said than done, but try telling your loved ones what you need from them. Explain your anxiety so they are informed and understand, or point them to the resources that can do the educating for you. Be specific. If you want help getting to a slow-flow yoga class, tell your friend that. Or if you need their patience and understanding around your social anxiety, ask for that, too. By openly communicating, you give the people closest to you the opportunity to show you they care in exactly the way that’s most helpful to you.