Fear And Anxiety: How Counseling Can Help

Updated October 5, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

For many people, anxiety disorders have a way of taking over every thought and action and it leaves them wondering, “Can therapy help with anxiety disorders?”  Untreated anxiety disorders can make it difficult to perform everyday activities and do the necessary things for day-to-day life. While this is a struggle, it doesn’t always have to be this way. 

There are several ways to get fear and anxiety symptoms under control. One of the most common and most successful is counseling or online therapy for phobias and anxiety symptoms.

There are many different types of anxiety that are classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM-5, a manual of mental illness and psychiatric disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. The symptoms of different anxiety illnesses are described at the website of the National Institute of Mental Health, and they vary from one condition to the next. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that over 19 percent of adults experience clinical anxiety each year and that women are more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety condition than men. A primary care provider, psychologist, or other mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis.

You might be wondering, how does counseling rid me of fear and treat anxiety or a panic attack? Although you may never be completely rid of fear, you can overcome it. Anxiety is much the same, especially in the case of anxiety disorders. The feeling or emotion of anxiety may be present from time to time, but it does not have to control your life or damage your physical health. To get past fear and anxiety permanently, counseling and anxiety therapy are vital. 

What Is Counseling?

Ready To Conquer Your Fears? The Support Of A Therapist Is Key

Counseling is a broad term used to describe the process of getting professional assistance across various mental health issues by improving the patient’s outlook on their health and wellness by relieving stress. Most commonly, counseling is used in the treatment for numerous mental health issues and the physical symptoms that are associated with those concerns. Treating anxiety disorders, depression, addiction, anger management, and relationship issues are all possible with the right therapy or counseling. If you experience any of these mental health issues, counseling can help you.

By reaching out to a counselor, you can start to work through any number of concerns that you might have. When it comes to counseling for fear and anxiety, there are a few types that might be used to help you. Learning about your options will allow you the opportunity to know what to expect and what you might ask a mental health professional about in your first meeting. The best counselor for you will listen to what you’ve researched and will consider the options you’ve brought to them, in addition to offering their own professional opinion regarding what might work best for you.

Counseling Options For Fear And Anxiety

There are many options for interpersonal therapy and counseling for fear and to treat anxiety disorders. However, there is one that is far more common than the rest: cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT. Cognitive therapy examines negative thoughts and emotions and helps the person find new ways of thinking and feeling about them. Other options include exposure therapy and hypnosis. Although these are less common, they have proven to be effective in treating fear and anxiety in many people with anxiety disorders.

A lot of a counseling type’s success is dependent on the kind of anxiety disorder a person has. Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and other anxiety disorders may be best treated with one type of therapy.

In contrast, another kind, such as severe phobias, might see success in exposure therapy. Posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and separation anxiety disorders are other mental health problems often seen by therapists treating people with anxiety disorders. Choosing the best kind of counseling for you starts with knowing the specific type of anxiety symptoms and then choosing the most appropriate types of therapy for it.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy In Counseling For Anxiety Disorders

Cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT, is a form of talk therapy that aims to help an individual control overpowering anxious thoughts that lead them to certain behaviors. Behavior therapy examines negative thought processes and then replaces them with more positive thinking patterns.  It is one of the most widely used therapy treatments for many mental health issues and is endorsed by the Anxiety and Depression Association as a treatment for anxiety disorders. 

Those with anxiety disorders tend to avoid their fears in an attempt to control their environment. Although it is a way of protecting themselves, it can disrupt one’s life in a way that makes living difficult. CBT seeks to use structured sessions with a counselor or other mental health provider to identify negative thoughts and move the patient’s response to something more positive. Doing so helps to change the person’s actions in response and can reduce or eliminate excessive anxiety.

There are a few different ways in which CBT can be done. For many, sessions are one on one – patient and counselor. Other times, a counselor leads a group therapy session using cognitive behavioral therapy. The counselor and patient must discuss their options together to find the best form of CBT for each case, whether it's performance anxiety or a panic disorder. After determining the best kind of sessions for you, your therapist or counselor will help to draw out the negative thoughts so that they can be changed. CBT can also be done by oneself using a written guide. In one randomized controlled trial, participants who utilized CBT by themselves had better outcomes that people who did not engage in any therapy at all.

Change occurs through the sessions themselves as well as with homework. When the therapy is taken seriously, and homework is done as assigned, patients complete cognitive behavioral therapy in just a few months. Attending support group sessions can also help. Severe cases may take longer, but CBT has been proven to be successful in treating a wide variety of anxiety disorders.

Exposure Therapy For Anxiety Disorders

Although considered a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy works to desensitize individuals to their fears by exposing them to what they are afraid of little by little over some time. It is especially effective for treating anxiety associated with a specific situation or object of fear. For example, if a person has arachnophobia, the systematic desensitization involves slowing exposing the patient to a harmless spider, or even a photograph of one, over multiple sessions. The counseling session might include keeping a small spider across the room from the patient. In the next session, the spider might be a little closer. The process would continue until the fear is no longer one that controls the patient’s life and they overcome anxiety related to spiders.

This kind of therapy also works with other fears and anxiety. For instance, with a fear of public speaking, a counselor might have the patient prepare a short speech to recite during a session. The following session might involve one additional listener. By the end of the exposure therapy, the patient might be reciting the speech to a room full of people. Working slowly to the end goal helps the person to get there on their own time, but they can get there. Although it seems daunting to face your fears in this manner, avoiding your fear altogether can amplify it and make the anxiety worse.

Hypnosis To Treat Anxiety Disorder

Perhaps you’ve seen it in movies or on TV but never imagined using hypnosis to treat your anxiety disorder. If this is the case, consider the facts surrounding hypnosis. The idea behind hypnosis is that when your focus is concentrated on one thought, other thoughts fade away. In this therapy for anxiety, both the patient and the counselor must work together to develop that specific focus.

An individual that is using hypnosis for treatment must remain focused. They cannot fall asleep despite the counselor’s efforts to create a relaxed environment. When hypnosis is used as anxiety disorder treatment, the patient will likely reveal their deepest needs and desires, in addition to each of their causes of anxiety. By identifying the root of every source of anxiety, a patient and counselor can then work to aim the focus on lessening that anxiety.

Do I Have To Take Medication To Overcome Fear And Anxiety?

One of the great things about counseling for fear and anxiety relief is that anti-anxiety medications are often not necessary. Medications often treat just the symptoms without getting to the core of the issue. Although generalized anxiety disorders and similar conditions can be helped with antidepressants like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs or anti-anxiety medication at times, it is not required for every individual.

However, in one randomized controlled trial meta-analysis study published in the Journal of International Clinical Psychopharmacology, medications like serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and benzodiazepines had significantly better results than relaxation techniques or psychodynamic therapy for controlling symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Speaking with your mental healthcare professional about the possibility of medication can help you to determine if it is right for you or if a different treatment plan is better. There are many ways to treat anxiety disorders and reduce anxiety with therapy sessions while avoiding anti-anxiety medications.

Ready To Conquer Your Fears? The Support Of A Therapist Is Key

However, if you want to avoid using medication, treating your fear and anxiety with counseling is an excellent course of action. Many doctors use therapy as a treatment plan starting point and then add medication if it’s needed. Get in touch with a counselor or therapist to see if counseling alone might help you before seeking medicinal relief from your symptoms.

What Does Life After Fear And Anxiety Look Like?

Is there such a thing as a fearless and anxiety-free life? Truthfully, the answer is no. Feeling afraid and anxious at times are normal emotions for all people that cannot be completely eliminated. However, for those with people with anxiety disorders like panic attacks or phobias, life can get much more straightforward with proper treatment. After CBT or other types of therapy, anxiety disorders can become manageable.

What does managing fear and anxiety look like? When fear and anxiety are managed, the mind no longer attempts to control every factor surrounding it and emotional regulation is normalized. This means that you won’t feel it necessary to drive across the country for a short stay when your fear of flying is no longer as prominent. Others might feel better about being in the presence of their co-workers, thus leading to greater job success. Those with a generalized anxiety disorder might be able to find a positive light in any given situation. It also means that you understand that you don’t have to be perfect. Imagine the relief you might feel if you were to experience this kind of fear and anxiety management.

Someone that has successfully gone through counseling for their anxiety disorders will likely have learned how to handle anxiety in a healthy way when it does arise. Rather than focusing on that anxious feeling, they will pause so that they can relax their minds. They may count to ten while doing deep breathing or do some meditation or stretching to relax muscle tension and other physical symptoms helpful to reduce specific symptoms associated with anxiety.

Progressive muscle relaxation is among several relaxation techniques many people use to control symptoms of anxiety and related disorders. Sometimes it may be necessary to talk to someone about your anxiety, but moving past your anxiety means it will no longer put a pause on your life.

For many people, anxiety disorders are very nearly something of the past. If you, like many, are experiencing disruption to your life due to fear and anxiety, seek help. Counseling may allow you to live a life in which that fear and anxiety disorders don’t prevent you from doing things you most desire.

If you are concerned about your mental health due to anxiety symptoms, one option is online counseling through BetterHelp.com. At BetterHelp, you will find therapists with experience in treating panic disorders and panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder, and many other mental disorders using different treatment plans and therapeutic techniques, including cognitive behavioral treatment, behavior therapy, psychodynamic therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and other types of talk therapy and interpersonal therapy that can help you eliminate symptoms of unhealthy anxiety and fear. 

If you experience anxiety that interferes with your daily life, our therapists are here to help.  Our therapists will teach you valuable coping mechanisms to help you when you do experience anxiety while also addressing the underlying source of your problem.

Therapy sessions at BetterHelp are convenient and you can do them from anywhere you have Internet access.

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