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Your treatment options for anxiety and depression

Finding what works for you

If you or someone you know struggles with mental health, you’re not alone. According to Mental Health America External Site, more than 44 million American adults — around one in five — have depression, anxiety or another mental health condition. In addition, based on a recent Blue Cross® Blue Shield® Health of America Report® External Site, six out of the top ten conditions impacting the millennial generation are behavioral conditions impacting mental and emotional well-being.

Sometimes symptoms of depression and anxiety can also be the initial signs of other mental health conditions, like bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Chronic depression and anxiety can also lead to self-medication with alcohol or drug use.

Despite being highly treatable, the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health prevent more than half External Site of those who have it from seeking treatment each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. And, untreated mental health conditions External Site can lead to serious health complications, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, a weakened immune system and more.

There are several different options for mental health treatment. And, finding the right fit can make all the difference. Read on to learn about the various types and gain greater insight into improving one's mental health.

Treatment option #1: therapy

Therapy isn’t limited to just a one-on-one discussion with a mental health provider — there are several methods, each of which work best for different mental health conditions:

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is the most common, helps patients identify, understand and change their thinking and behavior patterns. This type of therapy requires active involvement and participation in recovery, and usually takes about 12–16 weeks to see benefits.
  • Exposure Therapy is a form of CBT used to help reduce fear and anxiety responses. To help people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder or certain phobias, the therapist gradually exposes them to a feared situation or object to help them become less sensitive over time.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) helps patients cope with unwanted thoughts or feelings by using mindfulness and behavior change. ACT gives them the tools to accept their experiences, view them in a different light, and commit to changing their behavior.

There are different types of mental health providers with different specialties who work in different settings. Learn more about each type with this quick guide from the Mayo Clinic External Site.

Before making an appointment with a mental health provider, you'll want to ask if they accept your health insurance and find out what types of therapy and how many appointments your benefits cover. You can check your coverage by logging in to myWellmark® Opens New Window and downloading a PDF of your Coverage Manual. You can also use the tools on myWellmark to find out what you'll pay for each visit before receiving services.

Treatment option #2: medication

While you can use medication to manage certain symptoms of mental health conditions, it’s important to remember that medication isn’t a cure on its own External Site. Medication is often most effective when paired with other treatment methods like therapy or support groups where you can learn the skills to help you manage your condition. And, since there are a variety of medications used to treat depression and anxiety, you may need to try several before finding the right one.

It may take some time until you notice the beneficial effects of medication paired with therapy. Medications require several weeks in your body to begin working, but it may take even longer to experience the full beneficial effects.

How medications work

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that nerve cells produce to send signals throughout your body. The two primary neurotransmitters linked to depression and anxiety are serotonin; and norepinephrine. Serotonin is thought to regulate happiness, mood and anxiety External Site, while norepinephrine controls heart rate, blood pressure External Site and other functions.

Medications treat imbalances of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which are believed to cause symptoms like long-term sadness, irritability, excessive worrying, and social withdrawal. There are several major drug classes that target serotonin and norepinephrine production to help treat mental health conditions:

  1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, increasing the levels of serotonin available to help improve mood.
  2. Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) increase the levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine to improve energy External Site, mood and attentiveness.
  3. Tricyclic Antidepressants are one of the earliest types of antidepressants External Site, and target serotonin and norepinephrine in addition to other neurotransmitters.
  4. Benzodiazepines are usually used for short-term management of anxiety or sleep problems related to your condition.
  5. Mood stabilizers are medications of various types that help regulate mood swings and may help people with symptoms of depression.

Additionally, supplemental medications, such as antipsychotics, thyroid supplements, lithium and others can be added to your antidepressant if it is not sufficiently helpful on its own.

Questions to ask your health care provider or mental health care provider before starting your medication

  • When will the medication start working?
  • What are the most common side effects?
  • What are some less common but more serious side effects?
  • Should I take the medication at a certain time or with food?
  • Is there anything I should avoid when taking this medication?
  • How long will I take this medication?
  • Will I still be able to take this medication if I become pregnant or am breastfeeding?

When you're prescribed a new medication, you'll want to verify that it's covered under your health plan. When you sign up for or log in to myWellmark Opens New Window, you have access to a number of tools that help you navigate your prescription drug benefits. These tools help you look up covered drugs and find out how much they'll cost, identify possible interactions between your medications, and more.

Continue improving your mental health with support groups

Build strong bonds through mental health support groups

Forming strong bonds and relationships is essential to well-being, and this is where support groups come in. Finding a group of people who are dealing with similar symptoms or situations can help support a shared goal of recovery and reduce feelings of loneliness. Anyone can lead a support group, but some have mental health professionals to help guide the discussion. Support groups are open to anyone, but often focus on specific problems like marital issues, depression, grief and loss, chronic disease, and other struggles.

You can find a support group in your area with this database External Site from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If there are no groups in your area or you’d rather remain anonymous, you can connect with people in online support groups or discussion boards. Mental Health America runs its own support community External Site to help people from around the world discuss mental health conditions.

Your mental health matters just as much as your physical health. If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health condition, it's important to find support and get the right treatment. As part of your health benefits, you may have access to a virtual mental health provider through Doctor On Demand®. Or, if you prefer to see a provider in person, you can log in to or register for myWellmark Opens New Window to find one in your network.