Searching For an Anxiety Cure
40 million American suffer from an anxiety disorder, but, unfortunately, there is no cure for anxiety. Most people with anxiety disorders use a combination of medication and therapy to treat and manage their anxiety, but it is the therapy, along with hard work from the patient, that actually helps “cure” the patient of their anxiety. As with anything, there are both pros and cons to each treatment modality.
Medication, although effective, only really addresses the symptoms of anxiety. But when a patient’s symptoms subside, they are better able to deal with the issues behind the symptoms, which is where therapy comes in. There has long been a debate over which modality is more effective. And every person needing treatment for anxiety has their own opinion. Many people would prefer the non-drug approach because of the side effects and risk of dependence of medication. But there are always the people looking for the easier option of “popping a pill.” However, because anxiety symptoms come back after stopping medication but not after stopping therapy, it appears that therapy is the most effective long-term treatment.
The most common types of therapy employed for people with anxiety disorders are cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. By confronting the anxiety-provoking issues, a patient learns how to better deal with them and manage their anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches people how to replace the negative thoughts with more positive ones in an attempt to “turn off” the anxious thoughts. In exposure therapy, a patient is gradually exposed to the situation that causes their anxiety in a controlled environment. By doing this and discovering slowly that there don’t have to be negative consequences associated with the situation, their anxiety naturally diminishes.
Therapy doesn’t work overnight, and it certainly doesn’t work without a great deal of effort on the part of the patient. It doesn’t work the way it is portrayed on popular TV shows, where a patient sits with a therapist for an hour every week, although that certainly is part of it. In between therapy sessions, patients must practice what they learn in order for it to be effective. Each time anxiety approaches, the patient must remember what was learned in therapy and use it to stop the anxiety from getting worse. Techniques range from breathing exercises and meditation to writing exercises designed to help make stressful situations seem less so.
For now, the actual cure for anxiety remains elusive, but as scientists uncover the underlying physiology and psychology behind anxiety, medications and therapy are being improved upon. Eventually, many believe, a cure will be found. Until then, the closest thing to a cure for anxiety remains medication to treat the symptoms, therapy to address the causes and hard work and perseverance on the part of the sufferer.