Helping a friend: It could be hard to discern if your friend is experiencing anxiety, unless they outright tell you.
“People who are always in motion may be actively fending off against anxiety, or they might just be active,” says clinical psychologist Nancy Nereo, Ph.D., an adjunct professor at Columbia’s Teacher College. And sometimes people who speak quickly and dart their eyes may be anxious, or they might just be excited, she adds.
“If you’re concerned about a friend, say, ‘I noticed you’re really busy and have a lot on your plate, how are you feeling?’” Dr. Nereo suggests. This gives your friend the opportunity to open up from here.
Seeking therapy: There comes a time when even the best anxiety-reducing routine might not cut it. The next step is meeting with a therapist to put the exercises into practice.
If you’d like to see a therapist, you should mention it to your doctor—either your regular internist, OBGYN or a pediatrician, if you have children, says Dr. Nereo. If you don’t get any specific referrals, you can search for a certified cognitive therapist in your community.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is widely known to be effective, one method of therapy where people learn to recognize the thinking patterns that lead to distress, and actively challenge it.
"However, other forms of treatment are also effective, and many clinicians use a variety of techniques, Dr. Nereo says. "In fact I think that while learning cognitive techniques can be useful, relying exclusively on that form of treatment may be very limiting," she adds.
It's important to keep in mind that many therapists use a variety of cognitive techniques, and they’re not all mutually exclusive.
“There are very effective, scientifically-proven treatments that don’t involve medication,” Psychology Advisor Art Markman, Ph.D. says.
However, some people may end up going this route if they have a diagnosed disorder.
People with OCD may use CBT, and sometimes take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) with some success.
For Generalized Anxiety Disorder, doctors prescribe benzodiazepines for short-term maintenance of symptoms, and antidepressants for continued use.
“I’ve taken many courses, read many books, group therapy, exercise, diet.... When people have the kind of anxiety I have they want a magic pill to make it stop. You can’t, but the medication can help people absorb the tools they need to cope,” YouBeauty reader Paige* says.
Despite everything Paige has used to treat her Generalized Anxiety, she can conceptualize that the most important tool to manage anxiety is to slow the mind down and become truly present.
“The only tool is being in the moment. We’re three steps ahead. Unless there’s a saber tooth tiger in front of your face, there’s nothing to worry about,” Paige says.
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