Anxiety is a common mental health condition that affects how you feel and react to situations. If left untreated, it can become debilitating. Anxiety therapists help their patients learn to control anxiety with healthy coping techniques. They may also recommend medications for severe cases of anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an established treatment for anxiety disorders. It targets negative automatic thoughts that trigger feelings of fear and anxiety, teaching you to recognize them and transform them into more helpful beliefs and behaviors. A therapist will work with you to learn and practice relaxation techniques that deactivate your body’s stress response. They may also teach you to challenge your anxious thoughts, such as testing their accuracy through rational processes like listing evidence they are untrue or considering other viable explanations. During sessions, your anxiety psychiatrist in NYC will help you develop the skills and confidence to confront your fears outside the office. Often, this will involve exposing you to stimuli at the level of what triggers your anxiety (such as flights or public speaking) and gradually moving up through the fear hierarchy. If you dread your first session, remember that your psychiatrist has a track record of helping patients overcome their fears. Try to approach the experience matter-of-factly and remember that you have survived other scary situations.
When fear and anxiety are triggered, your brain is flooded with stress hormones that trigger obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. To reduce these feelings, psychologists expose people to the objects, activities, or situations they fear and avoid in a safe environment. This exposure decreases fears and related compulsive behavior over time. Your therapist will help you identify and analyze your irrational predictions or negative distortions that fuel your fears, then encourage you to replace these thoughts with realistic, more calming ones. They may also teach you breathing techniques to control your physical responses to these feared objects or situations.
Exposure therapy is crucial to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for many disorders, including anxiety. This treatment can involve real-life, in vivo, or imagined exposure. In vivo, exposure involves directly facing the object, activity, or situation that causes you to feel anxious. Imaginative exposure involves vividly imagining the situation. For example, if you are afraid of heights, your therapist might have you imagine being on a bridge or going to the top of a high-rise building.
Relaxation techniques can help relieve both the mental and physical feelings of fear. They can include things like deep breathing, visualizing a relaxing place, or yoga. Your doctor can teach you these techniques and help you find ways to incorporate them into your daily life. For example, they may recommend staying physically active and eating healthy foods to control anxiety symptoms. They also recommend avoiding caffeine or nicotine, which can exacerbate anxiety. Another type of relaxation therapy is called systematic desensitization. This involves gradually exposing you to situations that generally cause high stress and fear until you can easily handle them. This approach, which relies on classical conditioning or associative learning principles, helps you overcome your phobia at a pace that works best for you. Other forms of relaxation therapy include autogenic training, in which you focus on different physical sensations from the feet to the head. And a technique called progressive muscle relaxation, in which you tighten and then release certain groups of muscles to promote calmness.
A fear response can be helpful when an actual danger triggers it, but sometimes our imaginations can magnify things that are not dangerous. This is a common problem that can lead to anxiety. Psychiatrists can use talk therapy to help people overcome their fears. Typically, they will recommend a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety disorders and have their patients sign a waiver between the psychiatrist’s office and the therapist’s practice to work together to provide exceptional patient care. Psychiatrists can also use relaxation techniques to teach patients how to calm themselves and change how they think about their problems. For example, they can use biofeedback to show their patients how certain physical sensations, like heart rate and muscle tension, relate to their stress levels. They can also use hypnosis to give their patients tools to apply when they feel anxious. For example, they can teach them how to breathe slowly and deeply, which helps reduce the physiological symptoms that trigger their fear responses.
In addition to therapy, a psychiatrist can prescribe certain medications to help calm you or prevent the onset of panic attacks. These drugs are usually short-term and will need to be adjusted from time to time, depending on your progress. Your therapist will also work with you to create healthy coping mechanisms and strategies so you won’t be tempted to turn to unhealthy habits like drinking or drug use to deal with your anxiety. This will give you hope and control over your life, which can decrease the chances of anxiety symptoms reoccurring in the future. Remember, seeking help for your anxiety disorder is never too late. Start by talking with your GP to rule out any physical reasons you’re feeling anxious, and then seek the help of a psychiatrist or psychologist if you need it. You may also want to join a support or self-help group, where you can talk to others with similar issues and get their advice.