Treatments for anxiety

If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the NHS may offer you self-help methods, talking therapies or medication.

Self-help methods

There are several self-help methods usually based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT aims to challenge unhelpful negative thoughts and behaviours.

  • Non-facilitated self-help – This means using information provided by the NHS to help yourself
  • Guided self-help – A trained professional will help guide you through the information
  • Psycho-educational groups – You will learn about your symptoms and how to manage them in a group setting

Talking therapies

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT helps you understand the links between your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It can help you to find ways to overcome your anxiety by challenging negative thoughts and beliefs.

Depending on the anxiety that you have, you will usually get 12–15 weekly sessions each lasting 1 hour. You should get less if you recover sooner and more if you need it.

Applied relaxation

Applied relaxation means that you will focus on relaxing your muscles in a certain way. And at a certain time. For example learning how you can relax your muscles so that you are able to fall asleep easier.

A trained therapist will teach you different techniques to manage your situation.

Depending on the anxiety that you have, you will usually get 12–15 weekly sessions each lasting 1 hour. You will get less if you recover sooner and more if you need it.

Exposure and response prevention (ERP)

This is effective for a range of anxiety disorders, particularly obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Your therapist will encourage you to experience your obsessive thoughts and help you to manage them in a different way. They will build up the difficulty of each task.

Medications for anxiety

You may be offered medication to help manage your anxiety. Some common medications for anxiety are:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – Sertraline is the most common SSRI suggested for anxiety, but there are other SSRIs available
  • Benzodiazepines – Doctors should only prescribe benzodiazepines if your anxiety is extreme or if you are in crisis. This is because they are addictive and come become less effective over time
  • Beta-blockers – These can help with the physical signs of anxiety. They can help to lower a fast heartbeat, shaking or blushing

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies are treatments that are not usually part of mainstream NHS care. Some people find them useful for helping with symptoms of anxiety. Such as mindfulness, yoga and hypnotherapy.


As well as medication or talking treatments you could also try self-help techniques. These are things that you can do to help you relax and manage your symptoms better.
It is important to find out what is right for you. Don’t expect things to change overnight. You may need to practice your self-help techniques on a regular basis before your symptoms get better.

Some examples of self-help techniques:

  • Learning ways to relax such as listening to meditation CDs or relaxing music
  • Eat healthy foods regularly
  • Exercise more
  • Have a daily routine
  • Have healthy relationships
  • Have enough sleep
  • Keep a mood diary to be more aware of your symptoms and what makes you better and worse

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