Prescription medications do work for anxiety symptoms, but they aren't the answer for everyone. Some people don’t like the idea of taking medications or want to try more other reasonable alternatives first. Finally, some people have had partial benefit from medications and are looking for other options to keep feeling better. Here we outline some of the best non-medication options for anxiety.
CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety. The basic idea is to identify the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that result in cycles of anxiety in order to develop skills aimed at interrupting this cycle. CBT teaches you to gain control of anxiety by identifying negative thought patterns. Then, your therapist teaches you to change behavior and develop new coping skills. There is evidence that Computer-Based CBT (cCBT) is effective in treating anxiety, but extensive studies have not yet been done to see if the results are the same as face-to-face therapy. That said, if you don't have access to face-to-face sessions, it may be worth trying.
CBT isn't the only form of therapy that can help anxiety. Other options include Psychodynamic therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Herbs and nutritional supplements
Some herbs and supplements have been found to have positive effects on reducing anxiety. These generally come with less risk of serious side effects, but it's important to remember that even natural forms of treatment can have side effects. One study found that Omega-3 Fatty Acids were able to reduce anxiety symptoms by 20 percent. Other supplements and herbs that could be helpful include:
Some of the most popular alternative treatments for anxiety are below.
Aromatherapy is healing treatments through the use of essential oils. Oils are extracted from natural plants. Then you can use them by inhaling them using diffusers, inhalers, or spritzers. You can also apply them on your skin through oils or creams.
Studies have found that aromatherapy can help to lower anxiety levels. One study found that the use of aromatherapy decreased anxiety in patients before operations. Some oils found to be effective include bergamot, clary sage, lavender, sweet orange, ylang ylang, and rose.
Mindfulness is when your mind fully engages with what's happening in the present. When you practice mindfulness, you don't pass judgment on your feelings. Instead, you observe them.
One study that reviewed 47 trials with over 3,500 participants found that mindfulness medication provided moderate levels of improvement in anxiety. Results persisted beyond 8 weeks, demonstrating some durability in the effect.
Some forms of therapy, including MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) and ACT, include learning the practice of mindfulness. But you can also learn how to practice mindfulness meditation on your own. If you're interested in learning how, there are plenty of apps. One example is Stop, Breathe & Think.
Having good self-care habits can improve your mental health and reduce your anxiety. This includes habits like:
All these things can help you to lower your stress and anxiety levels and boost your mood.
Journaling can be an effective addition to your treatment for anxiety. It allows you to track your symptoms and feelings as well as spot patterns in your life. Generating a personal narrative is a key component to many psychotherapies, so it makes sense that journaling might provide benefits in terms of personal growth. Finally, you can also use journals to track your homework and progress from CBT sessions with your therapist.
Finding the right treatment for anxiety for you
Every situation is unique. The above options may help you improve and manage your anxiety alone, or they may represent a complement to other parts of your treatment. If you're on prescription medicine, these other treatments can still be beneficial. If you’ve tried these methods and remain with persistent, distressing worry or anxiety, it may be time to try medications. Often, medications can help turn the volume of anxiety down so that it becomes easier to practice mindfulness or participate in therapy.