Seeking Help: When to See a Therapist for Anxiety

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on August 13, 2023
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Anxiety is a common mental health issue affecting millions worldwide, impacting their overall well-being and daily lives. While some anxiety levels are typical, persistent and overwhelming symptoms may indicate the need for professional help.

The Online Mental Health Review Team is qualified to write about when to see a therapist for anxiety because we have extensive field experience working with clients suffering from debilitating anxiety.

To deal with anxiety well, it’s essential to know the different stages, understand the symptoms and how long they last, and consider the pros and cons of getting professional help.

This article aims to guide when and how to see a therapist for anxiety, explore various anxiety levels, discuss its impact on mental health, and offer alternative methods for managing anxiety.

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When does anxiety warrant professional help?

Anxiety Treatment Online for Free: A Comprehensive Guide

Anxiety is a common human emotion that can sometimes become overwhelming and interfere with daily life. Knowing when to seek professional help for anxiety is crucial for managing symptoms effectively.

Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Interference with daily life: If anxiety significantly impacts your ability to function in various aspects of your life, such as work, relationships, or personal activities, it may be time to seek professional help. This could manifest as persistent worry, difficulty concentrating, or avoiding certain situations due to anxiety.
  2. Physical health implications: Anxiety can take a toll on your physical well-being. If you experience physical symptoms such as frequent headaches, digestive issues, muscle tension, or sleep disturbances related to anxiety may be a sign that professional intervention is necessary.
  3. Uncontrollable and excessive worries: It’s normal to have occasional concerns, but when anxiety becomes relentless, overwhelming, and difficult to control, seeking professional help can provide practical strategies for managing it.
  4. Duration of symptoms: If your anxiety persists for an extended period, typically two or more weeks, and shows no improvement, professional intervention can offer guidance and support.
  5. Impact on overall functioning: When anxiety affects your ability to enjoy activities you previously found pleasurable or hinders your academic or occupational performance, it may be time to consult a professional.

If you or someone you know is experiencing severe distress or having thoughts of self-harm, you must immediately contact your mental health providers, emergency services, or helplines. Consider consulting licensed mental health professionals specializing in anxiety disorders for non-emergency situations.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or counseling, aims to help individuals experiencing various mental and health problems, conditions, and emotional challenges. It involves communication between the patient and a trained therapist, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, to address and alleviate symptoms.

Here are some critical points about psychotherapy:

  1. Definition: Psychotherapy is a range of therapeutic techniques that help individuals identify, understand, and modify troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
  2. Purpose: The primary goal of psychotherapy is to improve a person’s well-being and mental health by providing a supportive and nonjudgmental environment to explore their concerns, gain insight, and develop coping strategies.
  3. Types of Psychotherapy: There are various approaches to psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, interpersonal therapy (IPT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and many others. Different types of treatment may be more suitable for specific conditions or individual preferences.
  4. Process: In psychotherapy sessions, individuals engage in open and confidential conversations with their therapist. The therapist may use techniques and interventions tailored to the individual’s needs, such as active listening, empathy, reflection, and guidance.
  5. Benefits: Psychotherapy can benefit many mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and substance abuse. It can help individuals gain self-awareness, learn coping skills, improve relationships, and enhance overall emotional well-being.
  6. Duration: The length of psychotherapy varies depending on the individual and their specific needs. Some people may find relief in a few sessions, while others may require longer-term therapy to achieve their goals.

It’s essential to consult with a licensed mental health professional or therapist to determine the most appropriate type and duration of psychotherapy for your therapy-specific needs.

Understanding Anxiety Levels:

Anxiety exists on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe. It is important to recognize different anxiety levels to gauge when professional assistance may be necessary.

  1. Mild anxiety often includes occasional worry or nervousness
  2. Moderate pressure may involve more frequent intense worry or panic attacks.
  3. Severe anxiety can significantly impair daily functioning and may require immediate intervention.

Recognizing Symptoms

Anxiety can manifest in various ways, affecting both physical and emotional well-being.

Common symptoms include excessive worrying irrational fear, restlessness, irritability, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, and physical manifestations like rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath.

To determine when professional help is needed, assessing the frequency and duration of these symptoms is essential. If anxiety persists for several weeks and significantly interferes with daily life, seeking therapy may be beneficial.

The Pros and Cons of Seeking Professional Help

Seeking therapy for anxiety has numerous advantages, including access to a trained professional who can provide guidance, support, and evidence-based treatment options.

  • Therapists can help individuals identify the root causes of anxiety, develop coping strategies, and provide a safe space to express emotions.
  • Therapy offers a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to explore their thoughts and emotions, gain insight into their anxiety triggers, and develop resilience.
  • With the support of a therapist, individuals can learn coping mechanisms to manage anxiety, improve overall mental well-being, and enhance their quality of life.

However, it is essential to acknowledge the potential barriers to seeking professional help, such as financial constraints, stigma, or fear of judgment. It is crucial to weigh the pros and cons and consider personal circumstances when making this decision.

Alternative Methods for Anxiety Management

While therapy is recommended, some individuals may be hesitant or prefer to explore alternative methods for managing anxiety.

  • Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can help individuals cultivate relaxation and reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep are essential to maintaining mental well-being.
  • Additionally, engaging anxious feelings in creative outlets, journaling, or joining support groups can provide avenues for emotional expression and connection.
  • Establishing a routine, setting realistic goals, and practicing stress management techniques like time management and prioritization can help individuals regain control.
  • Creating a support network of trusted friends and family members who can offer understanding and encouragement is also beneficial.
  • It is essential to prioritize self-care, engage in activities that bring joy, and seek moments of relaxation amidst daily responsibilities.

Seek Help If Your physical health is suffering

When your physical health is suffering, it can significantly impact your overall well-being. Addressing and improving your physical health is essential for maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Here are some key considerations when physical health suffers and steps you can take:

  1. Recognize the connection: Physical health and mental well-being are interconnected. Research shows that poor physical health can contribute to mental health issues and vice versa. Understanding this connection is crucial in addressing your overall health.
  2. Consult with healthcare professionals: If you’re experiencing physical health issues, it’s essential to consult with healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, or specialists who can provide accurate diagnoses, guidance, and appropriate treatment plans tailored to your specific needs.
  3. Prioritize self-care: Incorporate self-care practices into your daily routine to support physical health. This can include regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and managing stress through relaxation techniques or mindfulness exercises.
  4. Seek professional advice: If you need clarification on the best steps to improve your physical health, consider seeking professional advice from certified nutritionists, fitness trainers, or wellness coaches who can guide you in making informed choices regarding nutrition, exercise, and overall well-being.
  5. Stay informed about preventive measures: Stay updated on preventative measures to protect your physical health. This may involve getting regular check-ups and screenings, following vaccination schedules, practicing safe behaviors (such as wearing seatbelts, using sunscreen, and practicing safe sex), and adopting healthy habits that promote overall wellness.

Everyone’s journey to physical and mental health provider well-being will be unique. It’s essential to listen to your body, be patient with yourself, and seek professional guidance when needed.

Beyond worry: How psychologists help with anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are common mental health conditions that can significantly impact a person’s daily life. Fortunately, psychologists are trained to provide evidence-based anxiety treatments and support.

Here’s a brief overview of how psychologists can assist with anxiety disorders:

  1. Diagnosing and evaluating: Psychologists are skilled in assessing and diagnosing anxiety disorders. They use evidence-based diagnostic criteria and techniques to understand the nature and severity of the illness.
  2. Psychotherapy: Therapy is a fundamental aspect of anxiety disorder treatment. Psychologists employ various therapeutic approaches to address anxiety, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with stress. CBT is highly effective for anxiety disorders.
  3. Relaxation techniques: Psychologists may teach relaxation strategies to help individuals manage anxiety symptoms. Techniques like deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation can promote calmness and reduce anxiety.
  4. Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing individuals to feared situations or objects in a controlled and supportive environment. Through repeated exposure, individuals can learn to tolerate and manage anxiety, reducing their fear response.
  5. Medication evaluation and collaboration: While psychologists cannot prescribe medication, they often work collaboratively with psychiatrists or other healthcare professionals who can prescribe medication for anxiety disorders. They may provide evaluations and assessments and monitor medication effectiveness with therapy.
  6. Holistic approach: Psychologists take a holistic approach to treatment, considering individual needs, strengths, and challenges. They may incorporate additional techniques such as lifestyle modifications, stress management, and self-care practices to enhance overall well-being and resilience.

It’s important to remember that every individual’s experience with anxiety is unique, and treatment approaches may vary.

It’s recommended to consult with a licensed psychologist or mental health professional for personalized assessment and treatment options.

Treating anxiety disorders with therapy

Treating anxiety disorders with therapy is a widely recognized and practical approach. Therapy can help individuals manage and alleviate anxiety symptoms, improve coping skills, and enhance overall well-being.

Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a widely used therapeutic approach for treating anxiety disorders. It focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with anxiety. Research has shown CBT to be highly effective in reducing anxiety symptoms.
  2. Group Therapy: Group therapy can be beneficial for individuals with anxiety disorders, especially when conducted with others who share similar experiences. It provides a supportive environment to learn from one another, gain perspective, and practice new skills.
  3. Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing individuals to anxiety-provoking situations or triggers in a safe and controlled manner. This helps them confront their fears and learn to tolerate and manage anxiety without experiencing harm.
  4. Relaxation Techniques: Therapists often teach relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. These techniques can promote peace, reduce anxiety, and enhance well-being.
  5. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: For children with anxiety disorders, parent-child interaction therapy can be particularly effective. This approach involves teaching parents strategies to help their children manage anxiety and develop adaptive coping skills.
  6. Virtual Reality Therapy: Advancements in technology have led to the emergence of virtual reality therapy for anxiety disorders. Virtual reality simulations allow individuals to gradually face their fears in a controlled virtual environment, providing a realistic yet safe setting for exposure-based treatment.

Psychotherapy for anxiety disorders: What to expect

When seeking psychotherapy for anxiety disorders, it’s helpful to know what to expect to feel more prepared and comfortable with the process. Here’s some information on what you can expect during psychotherapy for anxiety disorders:

  1. Collaborative Process: Psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is a collaborative process between the psychologist or therapist and the individual seeking help. Together, they work to identify and understand the underlying causes of anxiety and develop coping strategies.
  2. Initial Assessment: The first session typically involves an initial assessment where the therapist gathers information about your symptoms, medical history, and personal background. This helps the therapist create an individualized treatment plan.
  3. Treatment Approaches: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used for anxiety disorders. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to anxiety. Other therapy interventions may include psychodynamic psychotherapy, interpersonal therapy (IPT), or exposure therapy, depending on the specific needs of the individual.
  4. Goal Setting: Goals are set collaboratively between the therapist and the individual seeking treatment during therapy. These goals serve as a roadmap for therapy sessions and provide a sense of direction and progress.
  5. Regular Sessions: Psychotherapy for anxiety disorders typically involves regular therapy sessions, which can be weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the individual’s needs. The frequency and duration of therapy may vary based on the severity of the anxiety and individual circumstances.
  6. Techniques and Strategies: The therapist will introduce various techniques and strategies to help manage anxiety symptoms throughout therapy. These may include relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, cognitive restructuring, exposure exercises, and developing healthy coping mechanisms.
  7. Emotional Experience: It’s essential to recognize that therapy for anxiety disorders can evoke various emotions, including initial feelings of fear, anxiety, or vulnerability. However, treatment can provide a safe space for exploring and processing these emotions over time.
  8. Duration of Therapy: The duration of therapy varies depending on the individual and their specific needs. Some individuals may find relief and achieve their goals relatively quickly, while others may benefit from longer-term treatment.

Everyone’s experience with psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is unique, and it’s essential to communicate openly with your therapist to ensure your needs are met.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used and effective treatment for anxiety disorders. It focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to anxiety.

Here’s some information on CBT for concern:

  1. Understanding CBT: Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of psychological treatment that aims to help individuals recognize and restructure unhelpful thoughts and behaviors related to anxiety. It’s based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected.
  2. Evidence-Based Approach: CBT has been extensively researched and effectively treats various anxiety disorders. Studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing symptoms and improving the quality of life for individuals with anxiety.
  3. Collaborative Process: CBT is a process between the therapist and the individual seeking treatment. Together, they work to identify triggers, negative thought patterns, and maladaptive behaviors associated with anxiety.
  4. Cognitive Restructuring: One of the main techniques used in CBT is cognitive restructuring. This involves challenging and reframing negative thoughts and replacing them with more realistic and positive ones. Individuals can reduce anxiety and improve their overall well-being by changing thought patterns.
  5. Behavioral Techniques: CBT also incorporates behavioral techniques to help individuals face their fears and gradually expose themselves to anxiety-provoking situations. This process, known as exposure therapy, helps individuals learn that their fears are often unfounded or exaggerated.
  6. Skills Development: CBT equips individuals with practical skills to manage anxiety. These may include relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, problem-solving strategies, and assertiveness training. The goal is to empower individuals to cope with stress more healthily and constructively.
  7. Time-Limited Treatment: CBT is typically a time-limited treatment, ranging from several weeks to a few months, depending on the individual’s needs and the severity of their anxiety. The structured nature of CBT allows for focused and efficient progress.
  8. Effectiveness Across Anxiety Disorders: CBT effectively treats various anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Remember, the therapeutic process may vary based on individual needs, and working with a qualified therapist specializing in CBT for anxiety is essential.

Find a Therapist for Your Anxiety

Finding a therapist to treat your anxiety can be crucial to managing and coping with your condition. Here are some steps you can take and sources you can explore to find a therapist for your anxiety:

  1. Reach out to Local Medical and Psychology Departments: Contact the psychiatry department at a local medical school or a university psychology department. They may have resources or recommendations for therapists specializing in anxiety treatment. 
  2. Visit Mental Health Websites: Explore websites like MentalHealth.gov or the American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator to search for therapists in your area who specialize in anxiety disorders. 
  3. Browse Psychology Directories: Utilize directories such as Psychology Today, which provides an extensive list of Anxiety Therapists, Anxiety Psychologists, and Anxiety Counselors near you. Psychology Today
  4. Check National Organizations: The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) offers a “Find a Therapist” feature on its website to help locate therapists specializing in anxiety disorders.
  5. Utilize Online Databases: Use online databases specific to therapy and mental health, such as GoodTherapy.org. Their directory allows you to search for therapists based on location, specialization, and gender. 
  6. Seek Referrals and Recommendations: Ask for referrals from friends, family members, or healthcare professionals who may have experience with anxiety treatment. They can provide valuable insights and recommendations.
  7. Consider Telehealth Platforms: Telehealth platforms like Talkspace can help you find online therapists for anxiety. They can connect you with licensed professionals who specialize in anxiety counseling. 

Remember that finding the right therapist may require some research and patience. It’s essential to consider factors such as their specialization, location, and approach to therapy. Feel free to reach out and ask questions to ensure a good fit for your needs.

Resources for Further Reading

When To See A Therapist For Anxiety Conclusion:

Anxiety is a complex and prevalent mental health issue that can significantly impact an individual’s daily life.

Recognizing the varying anxiety levels, understanding symptoms and timeframes, and considering the pros and cons of seeking professional help are vital steps in managing anxiety effectively.

Therapy offers tailored guidance and evidence-based approaches to address and treat anxiety disorders, while alternative methods and self-management techniques can provide additional support. Please know there are free online CBT therapy resources.

Remember, taking the first step towards seeking help for anxiety is an act of courage, and with the proper support, individuals can regain control and lead fulfilling lives.

We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below with any questions about when to see a therapist for anxiety.

If you have any questions about online CBT solutions, feel free to leave a comment below. Your mental health is essential, and we’re here to help guide you through your journey.

Also, if there’s a particular mental health platform, app, or course you’d like our team at Online Mental Health Reviews to explore next, let us know — your suggestion could be our next review!

Best Value-Per-Dollar
BetterHelp | Online Therapy for Stressed Professionals
$60-$90 / Week

Overall, BetterHelp conveniently provides busy professionals with various live therapy options to make it the best online therapy in terms of value per dollar.

Try 10% Off Our Review

In case of an emergency

If you find yourself in a crisis and cannot wait for an online therapy session or appointment, it is essential to take immediate action. Dial 911 for immediate assistance, especially if you or someone else is at risk of harm. If you have thoughts of self-harm, you can contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. This helpline operates 24/7 and offers support when you need it most.

Additionally, you can get the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 800-662-HELP (4357). This confidential service provides assistance and information regarding mental health and substance abuse disorders, available around the clock, 365 days a year.

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