In March 2021, the Center for Disease Control published a report addressing a sharp incline in the number of adults with symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder. Although this increase is to be expected during large disease outbreaks, it is no less cause for concern.  Fortunately, we live in a time when it’s socially acceptable to talk about mental health and wellness, which makes it easier to seek treatment as well. 

The two most common types of treatment for anxiety disorders include medication and psychotherapy.  For many people, a combination of both provides the most relief. There are different types of healthcare practitioners who can provide treatment for anxiety, including psychologists, psychiatrists and general practitioners. Many people like to start with a psychiatrist because they are specifically qualified to diagnose and treat the symptoms of mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders. 


How do psychiatrists treat anxiety disorder? 

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health.  They can treat anxiety with a variety of treatment modalities, including numerous types of medication and psychotherapy.  Choosing the best treatment for the patient will depend on their specific needs. Here are some of the treatments  psychiatrists use to help relieve symptoms associated with anxiety disorder. 


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often the first type of medication psychiatrists use to treat patients with anxiety disorder. SSRIs work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin aids in the regulation of mood, sleep, appetite, and digestion. Low levels of serotonin, which are often associated with behavioral and emotional disorders, can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior. Technically, SSRIs are classified as antidepressants, but they are frequently also used to treat anxiety and other disorders. 

Examples of SSRIs include: Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa, and Lexapro. 


Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are similar to SSRIs in that they work to increase certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin.  But in addition to increasing serotonin levels, they also increase norepinephrine levels. Serotonin works on mental balance and creates feelings of well-being, and norepinephrine promotes feelings of alertness and energy. People whose anxiety symptoms include low energy or poor concentration, or who have not found relief with SSRIs may be treated with SNRIs.   

Examples of SNRIs include: Effexor, Cymbalta, Pristiq, Fetzima, and Sevella


Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Like SNRIs, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) influence the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. TCAs are an older class of antidepressants that have been very effective in treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. In people with severe cases of depression or anxiety, TCAs may even be more effective than SSRIs. One of the drawbacks of TCAs is that they also have an increased risk of side effects and a lower safety profile. But for many, they provide much-needed relief from their distressing symptoms. 

Examples of TCAs include: Tofranil, Elavil, Norpramin, Anafranil, Pamelor, and Vivactil. 



Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that treat symptoms of acute anxiety by affecting the gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. GABA plays a role in the body’s response to stress, and research shows that it helps to control fear and anxiety.  Alterations in the GABA system have been linked to anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines bind to the same receptors as GABA, slowing down the central nervous system and producing a calming effect. They work quickly and tend to wear off quickly as well. 

Examples of benzodiazepines: Xanax, Librium, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan



In addition to prescribing medications for people with anxiety, psychiatrists are also qualified to provide talk therapy and psychosocial interventions. Common psychotherapies associated with anxiety treatment include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. CBT works to identify and address how the patient’s thoughts and behavior calm or exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety. Exposure therapy involves creating a safe environment in which to expose the patient to the things they fear and avoid in order to weaken negative associations and manage feelings of anxiety. 

Some psychiatrists prefer to focus on the medical treatment of anxiety and will refer their patients to a psychologist for additional therapies. Others like to work closely with patients using various forms of treatment. Patients, too, can opt to choose a psychiatrist that does both or to work with different practitioners. With the patient’s permission, both practitioners can share notes and information, working together to provide exceptional care. 

For those unable to find relief with standard anxiety treatments, Ketamine IV therapy has also shown promise.  For more information, contact Pacific Health Systems today. 


Anxiety treatment in San Diego | Pacific Health Systems 

If you or someone you love is seeking help for anxiety or any other mental health issues, we can help. At Pacific Health Systems, we offer high-quality, cost-effective mental health services throughout San Diego County. Our providers specialize in primary care services, psychiatry services, psychology services, chemical dependency services, advanced depression and anxiety treatments with ketamine in San Diego, and more.  For more information or to schedule an appointment, fill out our contact form or give us a call at 619-267-9257 today.