There are lots of things that can help you to manage your anxiety. There is a range of treatments available, including talking therapy, self-care, learning anxiety management techniques and medication. The first step is to talk with your GP who will discuss these with you and together you can decide which is best for you. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist for talking therapy.
Depending on how severe your anxiety is, your doctor may prescribe medication for anxiety. Medication is best used together with other therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Medication helps to alleviate symptoms but addressing the underlying issue (either through self-help or therapy) is usually needed to produce long-lasting change.
Antidepressants, mainly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been found to be effective in managing panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalised anxiety disorder. Examples of SSRIs include citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline. In some people, venlafaxine may be used for panic disorder.
When starting these medications, your doctor will start you on a low dose and, if needed, will increase your dose slowly. This allows your body to get used to the medicine and reduces side effects. You must keep taking your medication every day – not just when you feel anxious.
It may take 4–6 weeks to notice the full benefits of the medication. These medications may initially make your symptoms appear worse before you notice an improvement. Other side effects include nausea (feeling sick), headache, sleep problems and sexual problems. Read more about SSRIs and venlafaxine.
Other antidepressants such as tricyclic antidepressants, may be used if SSRIs or venlafaxine are unsuitable or have not been successful. Read more about antidepressants.
Techniques for managing anxiety
You can learn some new skills that make a big difference in how well you manage your anxiety. Instead of the anxiety controlling you and what you do, you can take charge. Things you can do to break out of the cycle of anxiety include:
- understanding anxiety
- accepting and tolerating normal anxiety (and knowing when yours isn't)
- taking small steps towards doing the things you are worried about coping with, instead of avoiding them
- learning mindfulness
- taking good care of your self each day
- dealing with issues that need addressing
- getting personal and professional support.
See also our section on apps and e-learning below.
In my mind: Teen anxiety
What exactly is anxiety, and why are today’s teenagers more anxious than previous generations? Neuro-educator Nathan Wallis reveals why the brain is more vulnerable to anxiety during adolescence. Teens and parents talk about ways to develop coping skills, build confidence and take back control.
(Attitude Live, NZ)
To view more videos of the same series, visit Attitude Live: In my mind(external link)(external link) (Attitude Live, NZ)