There are many different ways that a person can recover from anxiety, and some of those are promoted heavily at this website: exercise, medication, counseling, support groups, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, to name a few.
But, which is most effective? Exercise, medication, or a combination of both? The most likely answer is a multidisciplinary treatment approach. Exercise, alone, can help one’s condition greatly improve. Medication, alone, can help in the short term, but its effects tend to diminish over the long term, and in some cases, completely disappear altogether. Counseling or support groups can be helpful, but sometimes the progress can be slow and difficult to notice.
Speaking from personal experience, the best way to approach anxiety seems to be to treat it from multiple angles at once. Performing exercise can be very useful, but where does a person go when he or she begins to feel burned out? Exercise is not the cure-all solution. When a person begins to burn out and feel as though he or she is unable to go on, the best thing to have around is another person or persons who can help that person get back on track, emotionally speaking.
For myself, the first thing that went into place was exercise. Exercise, as noted in another article, increases self-confidence, self-esteem, and it burns off much of that anxiety. But, also as noted before, it only works to a certain extent, and sometimes support from another human being provides much greater benefits than exercise could in the same circumstances. Then, sometimes both of these are not enough and more personal attention is needed; specifically, attention from a trained professional counselor. These individuals have the experience and expertise to deal with situations that may baffle others. The duration for which one decides to meet with a counselor is completely up to that person; in most cases, the client and the counselor mutually agree that the client has gained enough skill at managing anxiety that he or she is now able to go on his or her own.
Then comes the oh-so-controversial topic of medication, a subject covered in multiple other articles at this site. What I found that medication did for me was that it was like putting a jet engine on a car. It helped to relax me to the point where my social anxiety was minimized enough such that I could tolerate new and more difficult social experiences. I feel that I could have gained the same skill and relaxation on my own through exercise and consistent exposure to anxiety-provoking situations, but the medication really helped me to calm down, be in new situations, and gain skill at managing anxiety much more quickly than if I had not used it. It is important to note that by no means was the medication a cure for the condition; rather, it simply reduced the symptoms to make certain situations more tolerable.
A multifaceted approach to treating anxiety is certainly the most effective, however, it is not required. It is ultimately up to the individual to decided how he or she would like to treat his or her anxiety. The rule to keep in mind is that the more supports that are kept in place, the more progress the person will be able to make. Progress will also be made in a quicker fashion, which may be desirable because many people have suffered anxiety for many years and are longing for relief.
A person that has just identified him or her self as suffering from an anxiety disorder should engage in regular exercise, counseling, a support group, and probably have a small dose of medication as well. In the beginning is when a person is most vulnerable; therefore it is wisest to have the most supports in place at this time. As one grows in confidence and skill, many of the supports can be dropped. Counseling and support groups have become unnecessary for myself. However, some may choose to stay in support groups to struggle with occasional issues that do arise, and oftentimes, these persons will have expertise which they would like to share with others. Long-term, I plan to go off my medication because I place strong distrust in drugs and drug companies, which put money, not people and their well-being, at the top of their list. Exercise is one thing, it seems, that always helps, so it seems unwise of a person to stop it at any time.
It is important to remember that the level of involvement in each of these supports is up to the individual; different things work for different people. As long as one feels as though he or she is making steady progress, he or she should continue to do what he or she is doing.
Overall, a multidisciplinary approach is far more effective than any one method is alone, and it is up to each person to figure out what works for him or her. Any good professional can confirm this information. Good luck out there as you work to manage your anxiety!