When it comes to treating anxiety conditions most therapists prefer to be optimistic about the outcomes. There are good reasons for this; after all, treatments are becoming more refined as we continue to learn about anxiety and related conditions. So, whilst it’s good to be optimistic, the sad fact remains that certain obstacles continue to stand in the way of successful treatment.
Most people receive some form of medication when they first seek help for anxiety. This is also one of the first hurdles to cross. For medication to be effective it may have to be taken for some time. This has immediate cost implications for the patient, either in terms of finance, side-effects, or both. It is very common for people on medication to simply give up. This may be due to a number of factors but chief amongst them are the unpleasant side effects, a sense that nothing is really being achieved by taking them, and a belief that personal control is in danger of being lost. The issue of personal control may have particular resonance with people experiencing panic disorder.
Anxiety may not be an isolated problem and this is another potential obstacle. Where more than one condition co-exists there may be implications for the number of drugs that have to be taken. This has the potential for adverse drug reactions. Other complications may arise following withdrawal of medication. Relapses are quite common with certain benzodiazepine drugs, so care has to be taken as to how these are reduced prior to stopping completely.
Obstacles to treatment aren’t only a problem for medication. Psychological treatments are sometimes hampered by the lack of availability of qualified therapists and the cost, either to the individual, or the provider of health services. Even today there remains suspicion and embarrassment over seeing mental health professionals. If these obstacles can be overcome most people find therapy both credible and valuable.
Anxiety and depression often co-exist. This can affect attendance at therapy sessions or motivation to carry out agreed tasks during therapy. It is also the case that many people have fairly complicated lives. This may involve many and varied work commitments, relationship problems, family problems and so on. For the therapist and their client it is almost impossible to focus on the aspect of anxiety in isolation, especially as so many things are feeding in and out of it. In such cases it may be better to deal with these issues first. Help for anxiety can often only start in earnest if obstacles are first identified and then removed.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.