Managing Anxiety Disorder with Therapy: A Complete Guide

Sep 4, 2023

From the highs of joy and excitement to the lows of sadness and despair, these feelings are a testament to the human experience. But one emotion that doesn’t merely pass with time: Anxiety. It’s not temporary stress or transient worries, but chronic anxiety is a different beast. It casts a persistent shadow over daily life, deeply affecting mental and physical health.

Thrive Counselling Centre understands the nuances of mental health disorders and provides anxiety therapy to empower individuals with well-being. Our dedicated mental health professionals address your concerns with empathy, knowledge, and expert care to treat your anxiety.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is our body’s natural response to perceived threats, an evolutionary mechanism that prepares us for challenges. The one with anxiety often faces psychological and emotional stressors like work pressures and relationship challenges. Anxiety can become an overwhelming and chronic presence if not properly managed.

In moderate doses, anxiety can act as a motivator, pushing us to prepare, plan, and act. However, it transcends from being a mere emotional response to a potential medical condition when it becomes disproportionate, persistent, and overwhelming. Its overwhelming sensation can hinder daily tasks, strain relationships, and erode one’s sense of well-being.

Difference Between Anxiety, Stress & Depression

The terms ‘anxiety’, ‘stress’ and ‘depression’ are often used interchangeably, blurring the lines between these distinct emotions. Understanding the nuances between these emotional states is essential, as each requires a different therapeutic approach for effective management.

Anxiety: It is an intense, prolonged feeling of fear and worry about everyday situations. It’s the apprehension of what’s to come, even if there’s no evident threat. The body’s ‘fight or flight’ system kicks into overdrive, often without a clear trigger.

Stress: It is the body’s direct response to a challenge or demand. It’s typically tied to specific events or uncertainties, like an upcoming job interview or financial difficulties. Once the situation is resolved, stress usually reduces.

Depression: It delves deeper, marked by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in most activities. It’s more than just a bad day or week; it’s a persistent cloud that impacts all facets of life.

Difference between anxiety, stress and depression

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is not a monolithic condition but a spectrum of disorders with distinct symptoms and triggers. Understanding the types of anxiety disorders can empower individuals to seek the most effective anxiety therapies.

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is chronic, excessive worry about everyday things, from work to health or family, even when there’s little cause for concern. One may have physical symptoms like fatigue or muscle tension, which can be debilitating.

2. Panic Disorder

Individuals with panic disorder experience sudden, intense bouts of fear, also known as panic attacks. These episodes can manifest with palpitations, sweating, and a sense of impending doom. While unpredictable, certain situations or triggers might exacerbate their frequency.

3. Phobias

Phobias are intense, irrational fears of specific objects or situations, such as heights, spiders, or flying. The mere thought or proximity to the feared entity can induce a severe anxiety response, often leading individuals to avoid them.

4. Social Anxiety Disorder

Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder is the fear of being judged, embarrassed, or scrutinized in social situations. It’s more than just shyness; it’s an overwhelming dread that can hinder daily interactions and social engagements.

5. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD involves unwanted repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and actions (compulsions). Individuals perform compulsions, like hand-washing or checking, to reduce the anxiety the obsessions create, establishing a relentless cycle.

6. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Resulting from traumatic events, PTSD manifests as intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the experience that last long after the traumatic event. It can lead to flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, impacting daily life and functioning.

What is the most common type of anxiety disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most prevalent among anxiety disorders. It’s a persistent and often uncontrollable worry about everyday occurrences and events affecting a person’s daily life. Some other most common types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Selective Mutism

Each of these disorders presents its unique challenges. Considering anxiety counselling is the first step towards effective recovery.

Causes & Signs of Anxiety

The causes of anxiety are multifaceted, spanning from genetics to environmental factors. Recognizing the causes and signs is essential to seek timely intervention from an anxiety therapist.

Causes of Anxiety

  • Genetic Predisposition: Some people may inherit genes that make them more susceptible to anxiety disorders.
  • Brain Chemistry Imbalances: Neurotransmitters, when out of balance, can lead to feelings of fear and anxiety.
  • Personality Types and Traits: Individuals with certain personality types, such as introvert personality, may be predisposed to anxiety.
  • Traumatic Life Events: Experiencing traumas like accidents or abuse can instigate anxiety disorders.
  • Chronic Medical Conditions: Conditions like heart disease can induce anxiety directly or due to stress.
  • Substance Use: Drugs or alcohol can increase the risk of anxiety or worsen existing anxiety.

Signs of Anxiety

  • Excessive Worry: Persistent and overwhelming concern about everyday situations.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling or staying asleep, often due to racing thoughts.
  • Muscle Tension: Chronic muscle tightness, which might be a reflexive reaction to stress.
  • Chronic Indigestion: Often manifested as irritable bowel syndrome or frequent stomachaches.
  • Irritability: Quick to anger and easily upset, reflecting heightened stress levels.
  • Fatigue: Feeling consistently tired, even after adequate sleep.
  • Rapid Heartbeat: An unexpected heart rate surge without physical exertion.
  • Sweating or Trembling: Physical responses to the body’s heightened state of alert.

What are signs that your anxiety is getting worse?

Anxiety can intensify over time, and monitoring the progression to mitigate its impact on overall well-being is crucial. Understanding its signs can help you seek timely counselling for anxiety, ensuring a better quality of life. Some signs that your anxiety is getting worse include:

  • Avoidance of Previously Manageable Situations: Tasks or places once considered routine now trigger overwhelming anxiety, leading to deliberate evasion.
  • Frequent Panic Attacks: Panic attacks become more regular, often occurring without apparent triggers.
  • Persistent Dread Feelings: An unshakable feeling of impending doom or danger, even in safe environments.
  • Intrusive and Obsessive Thoughts: Persistent, unwanted thoughts or fears that dominate the mind, leading to distress or compulsive behaviours.
  • Increased Irritability or Mood Swings: Minor annoyances or changes trigger disproportionate reactions or sudden emotional shifts.
  • Over-reliance on Coping mechanisms, like Alcohol: An increased dependence on substances or behaviours to alleviate anxiety often exacerbates the issue.
  • Social Withdrawal or Isolation: An increasing tendency to avoid social situations, preferring to be alone due to heightened anxiety in group settings.
  • Physical Symptoms, like Headaches or Dizziness: Manifestation of anxiety in physical forms, with recurring or new symptoms indicating heightened stress levels.

Diagnosis & Tests

Diagnosing anxiety is a holistic process, considering its psychological and physical manifestations. While feelings of anxiety are common, determining when it transforms into a clinical disorder is paramount for targeted treatment.

When you have anxiety symptoms, a mental health professional ensues a series of psychological evaluations. Some common diagnostic tests include:

  • Physical Examination: To ensure the symptoms aren’t due to a physical ailment. Conditions like heart arrhythmias can mimic anxiety symptoms.
  • Psychological Evaluation: Discussing symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviour patterns.
  • Blood Tests: To check for signs of thyroid problems or other issues. This condition mimics anxiety symptoms.
  • DSM-5 Criteria: Medical professionals refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to compare symptoms with established criteria for anxiety disorders.

These evaluations often consist of structured interviews and standardized questionnaires, diving into your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. The goal is to determine the anxiety’s type, severity, and duration.

Proper diagnosis is vital, forming the foundation for the subsequent anxiety therapy and management plan. A mental health therapist ensures your anxiety treatment is tailored to your unique needs and circumstances.

Anxiety Management and Treatment

When confronting anxiety, a blend of therapeutic interventions often yields the best results. Each person’s experience with anxiety is unique, and thus, treatments are tailored to individual needs, whether through medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

1. Medications

Medications play a crucial role in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety. Some common drugs prescribed include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac or Zoloft and benzodiazepines such as Valium or Xanax. These drugs alter the balance of certain chemicals in the brain. However, consulting with a medical health professional is essential, as these medications may have side effects or potential interactions with other drugs.

2. Psychotherapy

Often referred to as “talk therapy” or simply anxiety therapy, psychotherapy is a broad term encompassing various techniques. One of the most prevalent forms is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), designed to change negative thought patterns and behaviours. Through consistent sessions with a trained therapist, patients learn coping mechanisms, strategies to confront and reduce fear, and tools to manage anxiety-inducing situations more effectively. Psychotherapy for anxiety gives you inherent strength and potential for change.

Types of Therapy for Anxiety

Therapies for anxiety offer a broad spectrum of tools and techniques tailored for anxiety management. Each type of anxiety therapy addresses specific aspects of anxiety, and the right mental health therapy varies for each individual based on their experiences, symptoms, and preferences.

Types of Therapy for Anxiety

1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is one of the most popular and effective therapies for anxiety. It examines the intertwined relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Individuals learn to identify irrational or destructive thought patterns and are taught techniques to reframe these patterns into constructive ones. Over time, CBT therapies reduce anxiety as individuals gain better control over their emotional responses.

2. Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is specifically designed for individuals with phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This anxiety treatment involves Mental health specialists systematically and progressively exposing individuals to the source of their anxiety in a safe and controlled environment. It helps them diminish their fearful reactions. It’s like muscle training; the ‘fear muscle’ weakens with each exposure.

3. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is an advanced form of CBT that combines traditional cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness strategies. Designed primarily for individuals with borderline personality disorder, its application has expanded to treat anxiety. DBT therapy helps individuals gain skills in emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

4. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is more about embracing and less about eliminating negative feelings. In this anxiety therapy, mental health experts help individuals learn to accept feelings without judgment, and commit to personal values, to achieve meaningful lives. ACT therapy combines cognitive-behavioural strategies with mindfulness and acceptance.


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a unique therapy designed to help individuals process traumatic events. Individuals focus on eye movements while recalling distressing memories to reduce negative emotions related to the memory.

6. Art Therapy

Beyond words, Art therapy offers a creative outlet for expressing feelings and emotions. Individuals in this therapy engage in artistic processes like drawing, painting, or sculpting and explore and release deep-seated emotions, often leading to profound insights and healing.

7. Psychoanalytic Therapy

Psychoanalytic therapy delves deep into an individual’s past, exploring unresolved conflicts, repressed feelings, and childhood memories. It aims to unearth these buried issues to understand and treat current anxieties.

8. Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

IPT hinges on improving interpersonal relationships, and social functions can alleviate anxiety. People address unresolved grief, role disputes, role transitions, or interpersonal deficits, paving the way for better mental health.

9. Alternative Therapies

Those seeking non-traditional ways to overcome anxiety can consider the following alternative therapies.

  • Yoga: A combination of physical postures and meditation offers holistic relaxation.
  • Meditation: Grounding techniques and mindfulness can anchor individuals, pulling them away from anxious thoughts.
  • Herbal Remedies: Natural interventions, such as chamomile tea or lavender oil, can offer calmness.

What type of therapy is best for anxiety?

While CBT might work wonders for one person, Art Therapy might be a revelation for another. The journey of anxiety therapy is personal, and finding what resonates and works best is essential. Thrive Counselling Centre can guide you through this journey, ensuring you receive anxiety therapies tailored to your needs.

Does Anxiety Therapy Work?

Anxiety therapy has proven to be an effective way to combat and control anxiety disorders. Scientific research consistently demonstrates various therapeutic approaches that can substantially reduce or eliminate anxiety symptoms.

The efficacy of therapy largely depends on the

  • type of anxiety,
  • the therapist’s expertise, and
  • the patient’s commitment

The beauty of anxiety therapy lies in its ability to offer tools and strategies tailored to one’s unique needs, enabling them to confront and manage their anxiety in everyday situations. While therapy might not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, with patience and persistence, it offers a promising avenue for reclaiming your life from the grips of debilitating anxiety. Anxiety therapies have become the cornerstone of a more centred and anxiety-free life for many.

Self-help Techniques for Managing Anxiety

Numerous self-help strategies can complement anxiety therapy. These methods empower individuals to take active control, promoting holistic well-being.

Role of Diet and Lifestyle in Anxiety Management

Our diet and daily routines are vital to govern our mental health. Consuming a balanced diet rich in specific nutrients can mitigate anxiety symptoms. A consistent routine, adequate sleep, and avoiding excessive caffeine or sugar are essential for maintaining emotional equilibrium.

What foods help with anxiety?

Certain foods are known to have calming effects. These include:

Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fish like salmon, these can reduce anxiety symptoms.
Dark Chocolate: Contains antioxidants that can help reduce stress.
Green Tea: Contains theanine, which promotes relaxation.
Whole Grains: These release serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter.
Yogurt and Fermented Foods: Beneficial for gut health, which can influence anxiety.

Helpful Exercises

Physical activity is a potent tool against anxiety. Engaging in exercises like yoga, aerobics, or even a brisk walk can release endorphins, our body’s natural mood lifters. Additionally, practising deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation can help centre the mind, providing immediate relief from acute anxiety symptoms.

Living With Anxiety Disorder

Living with an anxiety disorder can be challenging, as it often permeates various facets of your daily life. While some days might be harder than others, understanding its impacts and adopting coping strategies can make a more balanced existence.

A person showing a sign of anxiety disorder

Impact of Anxiety on Daily Life

Anxiety can cast a shadow on your everyday activities and interactions. Some of its pervasive effects include:

  • Cognitive Impact: Difficulty concentrating or decision-making.
  • Social Withdrawal: Avoiding social situations due to fear or discomfort.
  • Physical Symptoms: Such as headaches, rapid heartbeat, or digestive problems.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Decreased Productivity: Procrastination or missed work/school days.
  • Strained Relationships: Misunderstandings or conflicts stemming from anxiety symptoms.

How can I best cope with an anxiety disorder?

Coping with anxiety requires self-awareness, patience, and proactive strategies. Below are listed some recommended ways to manage it.

  • Stay Informed: Understand your anxiety and its triggers.
  • Seek Therapy: Professional guidance can offer invaluable coping techniques.
  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity helps reduce anxiety levels.
  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Meditation, deep-breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol: They can provoke or exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
  • Join a Support Group: Sharing experiences can be therapeutic.
  • Establish a Routine: Predictability can counterbalance the chaos of anxiety.
  • Stay Connected: Engage with loved ones who understand and support your journey.

Anxiety Therapy at Thrive Counselling Centre

Thrive Counselling Centre understands the intricate nuances of anxiety and the varied ways it manifests in one’s life. We are committed to holistic well-being, and our dedicated team of mental health professionals brings experience and compassion to provide you with result-oriented anxiety therapies. With us, you get a tailored approach to your mental health journey, where we prioritize understanding your unique experiences and needs.

Our anxiety therapists employ evidence-based methods to ensure effective outcomes. Amidst a serene and supportive environment, we help you navigate the maze of anxiety and find your path to inner calm and resilience.

Contact Thrive and take the first step towards a brighter, more balanced tomorrow.

What to Expect From Anxiety Therapy Session at Thrive?

Thrive Counselling Centre provides you with an enlightening and healing experience. From your first session, we focus on ensuring you feel seen, heard, and understood. Here’s what you can expect from us.

Warm Welcoming Environment: Our counselling centre is curated to provide a calming atmosphere, ensuring you’re at ease from the moment you step in.

Comprehensive Assessment: Your initial sessions involve a thorough assessment to understand your concerns and tailor the therapy accordingly.

Personalized Therapeutic Strategies: Based on your needs, our anxiety therapists employ the most effective techniques and strategies to address your anxiety.

Regular Progress Check-ins: We continuously monitor your journey with regular check-ins to assess progress and adjust therapeutic methods if needed.

Collaborative Approach: Therapy at Thrive is a partnership. We work together, with your active involvement, to ensure the best outcomes.

What to Talk About in Anxiety Therapy with Your Therapist?

When you engage in anxiety therapy, it’s essential to have open communication with your therapist. It allows you to extract the most value from each session. But if you’re unsure where to begin or what topics to cover, consider the following aspects to provide clarity and guide your therapeutic journey.

1. Identifying Triggers and Patterns

Discussing the specific events, thoughts, or circumstances that trigger your anxiety can be eye-opening. Sharing these with your therapist helps spot patterns and understand the root causes of your distress, paving the way for more effective interventions.

2. Setting Realistic Goals for Treatment

A key component of anxiety therapy is goal setting. Talk with your therapist about what you wish to achieve. Whether managing panic attacks, reducing overall anxiety levels, or finding balance in daily life, having clear goals can steer the therapeutic process in a focused direction.

3. Developing Coping Strategies

An essential part of therapy involves equipping you with tools to handle anxiety outside the therapy room. Engage in conversations about techniques and strategies that resonate with you, and work collaboratively with your therapist to develop a toolbox of coping methods tailored to your unique needs.

Anxiety Therapy FAQs

Is anxiety a form of mental illness?

Anxiety can be classified as a mental illness when it becomes chronic, overwhelming, and hinders daily functioning. While everyone experiences anxiety occasionally, persistent and excessive worry characterize anxiety disorders.

What are the 5 C’s of anxiety?

The 5 C’s refer to a coping strategy for anxiety: Calm, Cope, Choice, Challenge, and Celebrate. They represent a step-by-step approach to understanding, confronting, and managing anxiety.

What are the 4 R’s of anxiety?

The 4 R’s include Recognize (identify anxiety symptoms), Relax (employ relaxation techniques), Reframe (change negative thought patterns), and Redirect (focus attention away from anxiety-inducing thoughts).

How can I control my anxiety without medication?

There are various methods to manage anxiety without drugs, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness and meditation, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and lifestyle changes like regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Does anxiety get worse over time?

If left untreated, anxiety can get worse over time. However, many people can manage or overcome anxiety disorders with early intervention and appropriate treatment.

Is anxiety a chemical imbalance?

Some research suggests that anxiety might be linked to an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine. However, the causes of anxiety are multifaceted, including biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

What personality types are prone to anxiety?

Anyone, regardless of personality type, can develop anxiety. Certain personality traits can make an individual more susceptible to anxiety disorders, such as neuroticism, perfectionism, or being overly self-critical.

Can anxiety go away with therapy?

Therapy, particularly CBT, has proven effective in treating anxiety disorders. While therapy might not eliminate anxiety, it can provide effective tools and strategies to manage symptoms.

How long does therapy take for anxiety?

The duration of therapy for anxiety varies among individuals. Some might benefit from short-term treatment spanning a few sessions, while others might need more extended therapy. The anxiety severity, the therapy approach, and individual factors all play roles.

Is counselling or therapy better for anxiety?

Both counselling and therapy can be beneficial for anxiety. The best approach depends on individual needs. Counselling addresses immediate issues and offers coping techniques, while anxiety therapy, especially CBT, delves deeper into underlying patterns and offers strategies for long-term management.

Is CBT effective for anxiety?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered one of the most effective treatments for anxiety disorders. It helps individuals identify negative thought patterns and develop more constructive ways of thinking and reacting.

Carson Kivari

Carson Kivari

Carson Kivari is the Founder and Clinic Director of Thrive Downtown, with years of experience helping individuals and couples overcome anxiety, depression, and burnout. He guides clients on a journey of self-exploration and trauma release to find purpose, connection, and safety. Take the first step towards healing and contact Carson today to schedule a session.

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