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  • Writer's pictureAmanda the OT

Managing Anxiety Disorders

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Anxiety is a stress response that can be channeled into positive behavior to help cope with challenging situations or develop into a disabling condition caused by the irrational fear of familiar activities or situations. Anxiety disorders are often described as the anticipation of suffering negative consequences due to not knowing how to behave in a given situation, resulting in hesitation and inaction. Risk factors include environmental stressors (e.g. work, school, relationships, global pandemic, etc.), genetics, and sleep inconsistency (Kliger & Lee, 2004). Conventional treatment commonly incorporates medication (e.g., antidepressants, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, and buspirone) and psychotherapy (e.g., cognitive-behavioral, exposure, applied relaxation).

Integrative approaches include eliminating offending foods (e.g., wheat, coffee, milk, cane sugar, and yeast) from the diet, botanical/nutritional supplements (e.g., probiotics, evening primrose, kava kava, and valerian root), exercise/movement therapies (e.g., yoga), and mindfulness/meditation (Kliger & Lee, 2004).

Occupational therapy practitioners address anxiety across the lifespan by collaborating with clients to create meaningful routines and habits, increase participation in enjoyable activities that support optimal levels of arousal or relaxation, and establish strategies for managing symptoms to enhance occupational performance (AOTA, 2014). Pediatric OTs promote social and emotional learning (SEL) to support the development of skills to recognize and manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Parents should work with their OT providers to establish effective relaxation techniques and create a sensory modulation kit and/or a sensory diet to support regulation throughout the day (AOTA, 2014).


American Occupational Therapy Association (2014). Anxiety Disorders: Occupational Therapy’s Role in Mental Health Promotion, Prevention, & Intervention With Children & Youth. Retrieved from

Ghaffari Darab, M., Headgate, A., Khorasani, E., Bayati, M., & Keshavarz, K. (2020). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in major depression disorder treatment: an umbrella review on systematic reviews. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 24(4), 357–370.

Gingnell, M., Frick, A., Engman, J., Alaie, I., Björkstrand, J., Faria, V., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., Reis, M., Larsson, E.-M., Wahlstedt, K., Fredrikson, M., & Furmark, T. (2016). Combining escitalopram and cognitive-behavioral therapy for a social anxiety disorder: randomized controlled fMRI trial. British Journal of Psychiatry, 209(3), 229–235.

Kim, E. Y., Kim, S. H., Lee, H. J., Lee, N. Y., Kim, H. Y., Park, C. H. K., & Ahn, Y. M. (2019). A randomized, double-blind, 6-week prospective pilot study on the efficacy and safety of dose escalation in non-remitters in comparison to those of the standard dose of escitalopram for major depressive disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 259, 91–97.

Mohajeri, M. H., Fata, G. L., Steinert, R. E., & Weber, P. (2018). Relationship between the gut microbiome and brain function. Nutrition Reviews, 76(7), 481–496.


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