Treating Phobias and Anxiety Disorders
Dealing with issues that have developed to the level of true phobias (irrational and persistent fears) requires a somewhat customized approach, as all phobias are not “created equal”. Broadly speaking, social anxiety disorders are treated differently from specific (or isolated) fears, though approaches may overlap or be quite similar.
According to the Mayo Clinic, psychotherapies like exposure therapy are commonly successful when dealing with specific fears, though medication is sometimes combined to help control anxiety and panic symptoms. A fear of spiders, for instance, might be successfully treated by showing the sufferer that spiders are no more or less frightful than other pests through a series of gradually increasing exposures. A successful course of exposure therapy could end with the patient handling pet tarantulas completely without symptoms, for example.
Treatment of social anxiety disorders has been less clear and generally more difficult. For some time, a blend of medications and cognitive therapy has been thought to be the most successful, but a recently completed 10-year study (Science Daily, December 2016) has shown clear indications of better success using cognitive therapy alone.
Types of Treatments – Psychotherapy
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): CBT is the process of confronting issues directly. There are several specific therapeutic approaches that fall into this category. CBT is also called “behavioral therapy” (BT) or “behavioral modification”. Cognitive behavior-related therapies are often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy or medication. At least 36 separate therapies are considered CBT treatments, and some CBT techniques also have sub-types.
Systematic desensitization (exposure) techniques are possible in three distinct ways, for instance. Imagined exposure through therapist-guided mental imagery is a technique that can also be practiced alone. In vivo (Latin, meaning “within the living”) is direct, live exposure to the feared stimulus. This type of treatment seems to produce better-than-average results. Computer simulation (virtual reality) has also been beneficial as a way to safely expose patients to feared stimuli.
Habit strategies to respond to stress and anxiety with deliberate relaxation are often helpful when used in tandem with CBT. Slow and deliberate abdominal breathing or concentrating on muscle relaxation can help control anxiety symptoms.
Hypnotherapy has been an effective treatment. Though long thought to be “pseudoscience”, hypnotherapy results are now being well documented, including the science behind the success. According to a recent Stanford Medicine study, specific areas of the brain become activated during hypnosis, illustrating a specialized brain response and allowing for detailed medical analysis.
Group therapy is an open group discussion among patients led by and under the supervision of a therapist.
Energy Psychology is based on the idea that mental and physical conditions are related to the flow and function of the body’s electrical energies. One clinical psychologist, David Feinstein, describes the approach as “acupuncture without needles.”
Energy psychology includes a number of therapies, often recently developed and/or still developing. In scholarly terms, some approaches to energy psychology seem to be rapidly coming of age and proving effective. Positive results have been reported in several peer reviewed journals, including Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease and more.
Meditation is sometimes used as an adjunct to therapeutic treatment. Also called “mindfulness”, the concept behind meditation as a treatment for anxiety disorders is the reinforcement of self-control. By practicing regularly to become fully aware both of physical and mental states, the patient learns to exert better self-control. By repeated exposure to self-awareness, the patient also strengthens their ability to recognize and address anxious reactions.
Medication for Phobias and Anxiety Disorders
Antidepressants are commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Several drugs are well known and widely used.
According to a November 2016 (update) Medscape article by Bhatt, Baker and Yates, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often used first, followed by tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).
Often cited medications include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Sertraline (Zoloft) and Mirtazapine (Remeron). All of these drugs carry significant limitations and notes regarding use.
In particular, the start-up phase of treatment using antidepressants is thought to actually increase anxiety, agitation and irritability for some time.
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List of Cognitive Behavior Therapy Techniques
The following therapies are all considered part of Cognitive Behavior Therapy:
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Anxiety Management Training
Applied Behavioral Analysis
Computerised Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Analytic Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Direct Therapeutic Exposure (in vivo exposure)
Exposure and Response Prevention
Functional Analytic Psychotherapy
Interactive Cognitive Subsystems
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy
Narrative Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Rational Emotive Therapy
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Rational Behavior Therapy
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
Rational Living Therapy
Self Control Training
Self-talk Identification, Questioning & Revision (SIQR)
Stress Inoculation Training
Systematic Rational Restructuring
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List of Energy Psychology Therapies
Be Set Free Fast (BSFF)
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Energy Diagnostic and Treatment Methods (EDxTM)
Emotional Self-Management (ESM)
Evolving Thought Field Therapy (EvTFT)
Eye Movement Reprocessing and Desensitization (EMDR)
Freedom From Fear Forever (FFFF)
Healing From The Body Level Up (HBLU)
Human Software Engineering (HSE)
Neuro Emotional Technique™ (NET)
Psycho Energetic Auro Technology (PEAT)
Seemorg Matrix Work
Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT)
Thought Energy Synchronization Therapies (TEST)
Thought Field Therapy (TFT)
Touch for Health
Tribrain Trauma Theory and Therapy
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Image of eyes: Public domain via Pixabay.
Image of dictionary entry: www.amenclinics.com via Flickr.
Image of pills: Tom Varco, via Wikipedia.