The most important aspect in the treatment of anxiety is to identify the cause. However, if no cause is apparent, available options are divided into psychological and pharmacological treatment.

General principles of treatment

The condition once diagnosed, must be treated adequately as it is associated with significant suffering to the patient as well as the family. The treatment includes comprehensive medical and psychiatric examination to exclude other conditions that resemble anxiety disorders.

  • The goal of the treatment is:

    • To relieve the patient from his/her suffering.

    • To decrease the frequency and severity of the problem.

    • To address other medical and psychosocial (e.g. marital disharmony) problems.

    • To educate the patient and family members about the illness and its treatment.

The illness tends to relapse if drug treatment is withdrawn even after achieving complete treatment response, so one should adhere religiously to the treatment advised by his/her doctor. Once the required response is achieved, the treatment should be continued for at least 8-12 months, to prevent complications and/or relapse. Non-drug form of therapy are also quite effective. These include:

Cognitive Therapy

Cognition refers to an individual’s ‘automatic thoughts’. Cognitive therapy focuses on altering thinking and behaviour patterns in order to reduce worry as well as anti-anxiety medications. It essentially endeavours to:

  • Help the person to identify the negative thoughts.

  • Become aware of errors in thought processing.

  • Help the person to restructure his thoughts in an alternative, flexible and positive (productive) way.

  • Encouraging the patient to maintain a daily diary to record details about thoughts and medications.

This works by reducing the tendency to perceive incoming information in a negative light, and adopt a more positive view of life. The therapy involves around twelve to twenty sessions.

Behaviour Therapy

Behaviour is defined as anything a person does. Behaviour therapy is based on understanding and analysing a person’s behaviour and brings about the desirable changes using conditioning techniques (classical and operant conditioning) and reinforcement (reward or punishment) schedules. The following methods are used:

  • The person is gradually exposed to the feared object or situation until the threatening situation or object can be faced without fear (known as systemic desensitisation). It is used in managing Phobias.

  • Relaxation Techniques can at times be helpful in reducing anxiety (especially¬† Generalised anxiety disorders)

  • Emotive Imagery is a process whereby the subject imagines the anxiety-provoking situation while at the same time learns to relax. This helps to decrease anxiety when the patient faces real-life situations (especially in Panic disorders).

Alternative therapies

Yoga, meditation, music therapy, relaxation exercises, breathing techniques, colour therapy and Reiki are some of the alternatives being explored and often successfully used for treating anxiety disorders.