For professionals wanting to help others in need of mental health support, pursuing a master’s degree program focused on clinical mental health and school counseling may be an important step. The program helps mental health professionals discover the best ways to deal with anxiety disorders in their patients by learning about their risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.
It’s normal to experience anxiety. But anxiety disorders are more complex than a temporary state of anxiousness. Not only are there several types of anxiety disorders — such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — but, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), these disorders involve anxiety that “does not go away and can get worse over time.” The symptoms can be so acute they inhibit everyday activities, such as going to a job or school.
Studies have shown that certain risk factors may increase a person’s likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder. Here are several factors which may predispose someone to experience an anxiety disorder, as found in a depression and anxiety study:
- Family history of depression
- Low parental warmth
- Loss of parent before the age of 18
- Disturbed family environment
- Childhood sex abuse
- History of conduct disorder
- Low self-esteem
- Number of traumatic experiences before age 21
- History of substance abuse before age 21
Treatment and Therapy Overview
According to the NIMH, the accepted way to treat anxiety disorders is through a combination of psychotherapy and/or medication. There are other treatment and therapy options, and anxiety sufferers should work with their doctor to define the best therapy options for their specific type of disorder.
Commonly called “talk therapy,” psychotherapy helps patients with a variety of mental illnesses. It may be used in combination with medication or other therapies, and it is an effective method of treating anxiety disorders, according to the NIMH. Sessions should be focused on the “person’s specific anxieties and tailored to his or her needs.”
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Another treatment option is the well-known cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) method. Its goal is to re-educate people to think, behave and react differently to situations that previously would make them anxious. According to the NIMH, CBT can also help with social skills — a key to treating social disorders — by providing both individual and group CBT sessions.
While medicine is not a cure, it can help ease anxiety disorder symptoms. Anxiety medication is usually prescribed by a psychiatrist, although some states allow psychologists to do so as well, notes the NIMH. The most common medications used to treat symptoms of anxiety are “anti-anxiety drugs (such as benzodiazepines), antidepressants and beta-blockers,” according to the NIMH.
4. Support Groups
Another of the ways to deal with anxiety is by attending a support group. Sharing highs and lows of their progress with others who have experienced a similar form of anxiety can be cathartic and provide a sense of community to sufferers. Support groups can extend to virtual spaces, where chat rooms on topics of anxiety disorder exist. Doctors should always be consulted before taking any advice from others who are not qualified professionals.
5. Stress Management Techniques
Besides psychotherapy, medications and support groups, there are other techniques that can help with managing anxiety symptoms. Here are some of the stress management techniques recommended by the ADAA:
- Breathe deeply.
- Count to ten slowly.
- Cut caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Eat balanced meals and keep snacks on-hand.
- Get eight hours of sleep a night.
- Try to exercise daily to maintain a healthy body.
- Volunteer in a local community to build a support network.
- Practice yoga.
- Listen to music.
- Get a relaxing massage.
- Look for help online via a mental health screening.
- Talk to family and friends for support.
There are many different ways to deal with anxiety, ranging from psychotherapy to medication to practicing yoga. Finding the right fit for someone with an anxiety disorder means equipping them with tools to live a productive, normal life.
Professionals looking to help others on their mental health journey can gain the necessary knowledge by earning an advanced education. Wake Forest University’s online master’s in counseling prepares students to do just that — make a difference in the lives of others by helping them to help themselves. Learn more about the program today.