How To Treat Anxiety In 3 Steps

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated July 18, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Is Anxiety Affecting Your Daily Life?

Recognizing the symptoms of a mental health issue like anxiety is typically the first and most crucial step towards healing. Many factors may contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder. In most cases, people who deal with anxiety or a panic disorder might feel confused about what to do to manage their condition and improve their mental health.

There is nothing wrong with being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Understanding the condition and symptoms can help you tackle it properly. There are also treatments available for people who live with anxiety disorders.

If you are wondering how to treat anxiety, this article may be beneficial to you. Read on to learn about a few of the best treatments available, with details on how they work.

Common Signs And Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders

It can be quite normal to feel anxious every once in a while. However, people who exhibit signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder or panic disorder, such as panic attacks, can become inhibited by their anxiety.

There is typically no singular cause behind the development of disorders such as social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. Some patients experience anxiety symptoms due to an underlying health condition. Heart disease, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and diabetes can all cause someone to develop anxiety symptoms. People who experienced trauma and abuse (call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE for help anytime) may also develop anxiety symptoms such as an intense fear of social situations. People with an obsessive-compulsive disorder or a panic disorder may often present physical symptoms of anxiety as well.

The following are a few examples of mental and physical symptoms of anxiety:

  • Nervousness or restlessness

  • Sweating

  • Having trouble concentrating

  • Trouble breathing

  • Intense fear

  • Panic Attacks

Common Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Anxiety disorder as a result of a medical condition

  • Generalized anxiety disorder

  • A panic disorder characterized by sudden feelings of intense anxiety known as panic attacks.

  • Separation anxiety

  • Substance-induced anxiety


Step 1: Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is another effective treatment modality for anxiety.  In most cases, anxiety can negatively impact one’s life in several domains. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy modality that is effective in the treatment of anxiety. CBT involves a short-term intensive treatment that is often goal-oriented. The main focus of this treatment is to change patterns of thinking or behavior associated with anxiety. Most CBT treatments typically last for about five to ten months.

If CBT is complicated to obtain or inaccessible for you in any way, consider that online therapy is a wonderful alternative. It’s more cost-effective and more convenient. Plus, studies show that online CBT is just as effective as in-person CBT in treating the symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.

Step 2: Medication

Medication and drug supplements can be effective in the treatment of mental health issues. There is a wide range of medications sometimes used to treat anxiety disorders in particular. The type of drug and dose is typically dependent on the severity of the anxiety disorder being treated.

One of the most common drug supplements to treat anxiety disorders are benzodiazepines. This medication is often prescribed for short-term treatments.  Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor antidepressants (SSRIs) are another type of drug often prescribed as a long-term treatment for a mental health issue like anxiety.

Some common benzodiazepines include drug supplements like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. Benzodiazepines can be incredibly useful, and effects can be felt within thirty minutes after use. The drug works by slowing the nervous system down until the body relaxes both physically and mentally. However, there is a risk that people taking benzodiazepines can develop a dependency. While these medications are effective at reducing anxiety, they are not a cure. In some cases, these medications lose efficacy after about three to six months.

In contrast, there is a lower risk of dependency on SSRI’s. Unlike benzodiazepines, SSRIs take a longer time to work and produce results. In most cases, it takes about four to six weeks before the medication begins to take effect. Typical SSRIs include but are not limited to Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, or Prozac. The brands mentioned are some of the most popularly prescribed medications anxiety disorders but they are not an exhaustive list. There are, however, specific side effects of SSRI’s that must be considered before being starting these drug supplements. The most common side effects of these medications may include fatigue, sexual dysfunction, agitation, nausea, and insomnia. In most cases, after a patient’s anxiety disorder has significantly improved, they then gradually taper off the medication. A sudden halting of the medicine may complicate or worsen the anxiety disorder being treated.

Apart from benzodiazepines and SSRIs, there are other medication options. Buspirone, which is also known by its popular brand name, BuSpar, is a recently developed anxiety medication.  BuSpar helps to treat anxiety disorders by increasing serotonin levels in the brain while reducing decreasing dopamine. This medication is slow-acting and may take up to two weeks to fully take effect but has a low risk of dependency. As with most other medications, BuSpar comes with specific side effects, including dizziness, weight gain, nausea, and constipation.

In the search for how to treat anxiety, the use of Beta Blockers has also been instrumental. Although Beta Blockers were used initially to treat high blood pressure and heart-related issues, they are also sometimes used off-label as anxiety medication. This medication works by stopping the effect of norepinephrine, which is the stress hormone involved in the fight or flight response, which anxiety triggers. The use of this medication helps control the physical symptoms of anxiety-like sweaty hands dizziness and a spike in heart rate.

Although medication is rather conventional as a treatment option, it is important to consider the entirety of the side effects. 

Before stopping or starting any medication, it is imperative that you speak with a medical professional. This article can be used for informational purposes but does not replace medicinal advice from a trained professional. 

Step 3: Self-Treatment

When the question on how to treat anxiety is raised, self-treatment is not often cited. But for mild anxiety disorders, it is possible to treat and manage stress and improve your mental health.

Doctors often encourage people who deal with anxiety disorders to utilize relaxation techniques, which may also come in the form of exercise. Yoga may serve as a perfect example of great relaxation exercises; the slow moves and multiple positions can offer the mind something else to focus on rather than negative thoughts. 

Another effective strategy for treating anxiety may be adopting a stress management plan. A stress management plan can require you to be aware of potentially stressful situations or deadlines, which may trigger feelings of anxiety or panic. 

Having a good support network can also make all the difference in treating anxiety disorders. 

Is Anxiety Affecting Your Daily Life?


Whether you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or you are noticing those symptoms in a loved one, it may be time to find help. That help can come in the form of medication, psychotherapy, or self-treatment depending on the severity of your symptoms.

If your symptoms are affecting your day-to-day life, reach out to BetterHelp for effective, online therapy. 

Regulate anxiety in a compassionate environment

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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