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Anxiety disorders

This section contains answers to frequently asked questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.

How long will it take for medicines or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to improve my anxiety disorder?


Medicines and CBT don’t work instantly. Both types of treatment can take a number of weeks before you notice any improvements.


If your GP prescribes a medicine for your anxiety, it's important to understand that it may not work immediately and your symptoms may even get worse for a short time. Medicines such as antidepressants that are often used to treat anxiety disorders usually take about two to four weeks before they start working.

A typical treatment course of CBT lasts about six weeks to six months and involves weekly sessions lasting up to an hour each. You may have CBT sessions on an individual basis, or with a group of people in a similar situation to you. For some people, the symptoms can get worse in the short term. If this happens, it’s important not to stop treatment. It may be that you need more CBT sessions to make sure you can cope better with your anxiety.

What treatments can my child get for anxiety?


Children and teenagers can be treated for anxiety with medicines, but it's generally better to try psychological therapies first.


Some antidepressant medicines can be used to treat anxiety disorders in children and teenagers. For example, some types of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been found to help children and young adults deal with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These medicines are only available on prescription from your GP or specialist and will only be considered after all other treatment options have been looked at.

Instead of prescribing medicines, your GP or specialist may want to try a course of psychotherapy known as CBT. This is a type of talking therapy carried out by a specially trained therapist. CBT can help children and parents understand how the problem developed and what they can do to overcome the anxiety. If you need further information, visit your GP for more advice.

How can I help reduce my anxiety myself?


There are a number of self-help measures you can take to help reduce your anxiety. Everyone is different, so it's important to try different things and see which works best for you.


Taking part in regular physical activity can help you to feel less anxious. When you exercise, your brain releases hormones called endorphins, which can improve how you feel.

Avoiding stimulants such as coffee, cigarettes and alcohol can also help you to relax. If you eat a healthy, well balanced diet and get enough sleep, you will be able to cope better with stress.

Even talking to friends or relatives about the things that are making you feel anxious can help. This may encourage you to seek practical advice for your problems if you need to.

Learning to relax in any way that suits you is also important.

What is trichotillomania and how is it treated?


Trichotillomania is a condition in which people have an obsessive urge to pull out their own hair, causing considerable hair loss. It can be treated with emotional support and CBT.


Trichotillomania usually starts in childhood. The main symptom is pulling hair from your scalp and having increased stress levels and anxiety. If emotional support from friends, family or support groups hasn’t helped to change your behaviour, you may be offered CBT. This is made up of three important elements.

  • Self-monitoring, where you keep a record of your hair-pulling behaviour and learn to recognise the situations that make you pull out your hair.
  • Stimulus control, where you learn to stay away from situations that make you pull out your hair, or use techniques to stop you from doing it.
  • Stimulus-response intervention, where you start doing different activities, such as taking a walk or relaxing, instead of hair-pulling.


Produced by Rebecca Canvin, Bupa Health Information Team, January 2013.

For our main content on this topic, see Information.

For sources and links to further information, see Resources.

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  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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