Can anxiety disorders be cured?
While there is no known cure for anxiety disorders, they are highly treatable and the vast majority of anxiety sufferers can, with effective treatment, achieve a greatly improved quality of life.
Treatment success varies- some respond to treatment after a few weeks or months, while others may need more than a year. Treatment is more complicated if people have more than one anxiety disorder or if they suffer from depression, substance abuse, or other co-existing conditions.
What are the best treatments for anxiety disorders?
Treatment must be tailored specifically for each individual and the following treatments have been proven most effective:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This form of treatment is well-established, highly effective, and produces lasting results. It involves identifying, understanding, and changing thinking and behavior patterns. Most often, benefits are usually seen in 6 to 12 weeks, depending on the individual. However, in some cases, excellent results can even be seen in fewer than 6 sessions (though such results are not typical).
In CBT, the patient is actively involved in his or her own recovery, gains a sense of control, and is armed with a set of skills – cognitive and behavioral “tools,” that are useful to manage anxiety throughout life. CBT typically involves reading about the problem, keeping records between appointments, and completing homework assignments in which the treatment procedures are practiced. Patients learn skills during the actual therapy sessions, but they must practice them repeatedly on their own to see the most improvement.
What is Exposure Therapy?
A form of CBT, exposure therapy is a process for managing fear and anxiety responses. In therapy, a person is gradually exposed to a feared situation, object, or thought, learning to become less sensitive to those experiences over time. This type of therapy has been found to be particularly effective for obsessive-compulsive disorder (called “exposure and response prevention” or ERP) and phobias, but can be effectively employed to manage all of the anxiety disorders.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Also known as ACT, this cutting-edge therapy uses strategies of acceptance and mindfulness (living in the moment and experiencing thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgment), along with commitment to valued life goals, as a way to cope with unwanted internal experiences. ACT imparts skills to accept these experiences, place them in a different context, develop greater clarity about personal values, and commit to needed behavior change.
I thought the OCD Resource Center of Florida only treated OCD.
This is not the case, at all! The skills required to effectively treat OCD can be very well adapted to the treatment of the range of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD. As a result, our clinicians are equally well-versed in anxiety disorders as well as OCD treatment.
What if I have a substance abuse disorder in addition to my anxiety disorder?
An active substance abuse disorder must be addressed first before an anxiety disorder can be treated effectively. We can refer you to an outpatient and inpatient substance abuse treatment provider in the community. Generally we require that someone be clean of all substances for at least three months, plus be actively engaged in an aftercare substance abuse support group (e.g., AA or NA), prior to initiating CBT for an anxiety disorder.
What about medications for anxiety disorders? Do you prescribe these?
There is a definite role for the use of psychotropic medications for anxiety disorders. However, they should be used only in cases where the anxiety disorder is having a serious impact upon the quality of ones life. The presence of clinical depression or mood disorder is another instance where medication might be needed. When prescribed by a board-certified psychiatrist, medication can contribute to an improved quality of life for the anxiety disorder sufferer. However, most patients will benefit most when medication treatment is combined with cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT). In the event that medication is needed, we can refer you to a highly qualified psychiatrist in the community who is well known to us. For the best results, CBT can be done concurrently with medication treatment.