Psychotherapy and Other Treatments
The goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is to regain control of reactions to stress and stimuli, thus reducing the feeling of helplessness that often accompanies anxiety disorders. CBT works on the principle that the thoughts that produce and maintain anxiety can be recognized and altered using various techniques that change behavioral responses and eliminate the anxiety reaction.
CBT and medication are each effective alone but many studies have shown that a combination of CBT and medication works best for treating anxiety disorders. Combination CBT and medication is particularly effective for children and adolescents. Evidence clearly supports the combination approach’s benefits for treating pediatric cases of generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, social phobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Studies suggest that CBT is also helpful for patients who have additional conditions, such as depression, a second anxiety disorder, or alcohol dependency. (It may take longer to achieve a successful outcome in such cases, however.)
Both individual and group treatments work well. However, people with social phobia may do better in individual sessions.
Anxiety disorders are chronic and recurrence is common, even after successful short-term therapy. Some patients with anxiety disorders may require long-term or intensive therapy of at least a year or 50 sessions. Medications, then, are also generally recommended for most patients.
Basic Cognitive Therapy Techniques. Treatment usually takes about 12 - 20 weeks. The essential goal of cognitive therapy is to understand the realities of an anxiety-provoking situation and to respond to reality with new actions based on reasonable expectations.
Review Date: 01/27/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.