VA Mental Health – Health Care Providers Treating Anxiety
Health Care Provider
A number of resources are available to health care providers who work with Veterans and may be concerned about a Veteran experiencing anxiety.
Resources To Share With Veterans
Encourage your patients to learn more about anxiety and explore resources and connected care options offered by VA.
Effective treatments for anxiety include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medications. The goal of both treatment approaches is to improve patients’ quality of life.
CBT is goal-oriented and can help your patients learn new ways of thinking, practice positive behaviors, and take active steps to relieve their symptoms. Medications work in various ways to reduce the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
One of the most effective treatments for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a short-term treatment that helps people understand the anxiety they experience, manage their distressful thoughts and feelings, and identify beliefs and thoughts that may prolong the distress. With CBT, people learn more adaptive ways of thinking and coping that can relieve their symptoms.
Two specific components of CBT are cognitive therapy and exposure therapy. Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying, challenging, and then neutralizing the unhelpful thoughts that are behind anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy focuses on gradually confronting fears and overcoming avoidance with new skills and a sense of mastery. The overarching goal is for people to overcome anxiety symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Anti-anxiety medications help reduce the symptoms of anxiety. The most common anti-anxiety medications are called benzodiazepines, which can treat generalized anxiety disorder. For panic disorder or social anxiety disorder, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressants are more commonly used.
In addition to medications, psychosocial treatments play a key role in the treatment of anxiety. These treatments help individuals develop skills and supports needed to be successful in their daily lives and help with symptoms that remain after treatment with medication. VA provides the following psychosocial treatments:
- Assertive Community Treatment: Assertive community treatment helps people with serious mental illnesses access regular treatment by clinicians who visit clients in the home or in their local community. This treatment has been shown to decrease the number of hospitalizations and help people live independently and remain employed. VA offers a version of assertive community treatment that has been modified for the VA health system known as Intensive Community Mental Health Recovery (ICMHR) Services.
- Supported Employment: Supported employment, specifically the individual placement and support model, helps individuals with serious mental illnesses find and keep jobs. Compared with other patients, those who have received these services more often found jobs, worked more hours, were employed longer, and earned more money.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps people understand relationships among their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and learn new patterns of thinking to support positive feelings.
- Illness Management and Recovery (IMR): IMR helps those with serious mental illnesses set meaningful goals and learn skills to support their mental health and recovery.
- Social Skills Testing (SST): SST was developed to help Veterans learn effective social skills that aid in their recovery. SST includes education, breaking skills down into simple steps, modeling, role-playing, and group support.
In Veterans' Own Words
Clinicians can use Make the Connection as a tool to engage with Veterans or their family members who may be reluctant to seek support.