Treatments for anxiety and depression

There are a range of treatments and health professionals to support you while you recover from anxiety or depression. Effective treatment will help you learn how to control anxiety or depression so it doesn’t control you. If your condition is fairly mild, your symptoms might be relieved with lifestyle changes like getting regular exercise or self-help strategies. 
If your symptoms of anxiety are moderate to severe you might need psychological and/or medical treatment.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) recognises that a person's way of thinking (cognition) and acting (behaviour) affects the way they feel. 

CBT has an emphasis on changing thoughts and behaviour by teaching people to think rationally about common difficulties, helping them to shift their negative or unhelpful thought patterns and reactions to a more realistic, positive and problem-solving approach.

NewAccess is a free mental health coaching program for anyone feeling stressed or anxious about life stuff – like school, work, study, relationships, or what’s happening next. NewAccess is available for anyone aged 18 and above, or 12 and above in some areas.

Over six confidential sessions your NewAccess coach will work with you to understand the issues causing distress, and then guide you in developing practical skills to get back to feeling like yourself.

Types of CBT

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) focuses on problems in personal relationships and the skills required to deal with them. IPT is thought to work by helping people to recognise patterns in their relationships that make them more vulnerable to anxiety. Identifying these patterns means they can focus on improving relationships, coping with grief and finding new ways to get along with others.

Behaviour Therapy

Behaviour therapy focuses exclusively on increasing a person's level of activity and pleasure in their life. It focuses on encouraging people to undertake activities that are rewarding, pleasant or give a sense of satisfaction, in an effort to reverse the patterns of avoidance, withdrawal and inactivity that make anxiety worse.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

MBCT is generally delivered in groups and involves learning a type of meditation called 'mindfulness meditation'. This meditation teaches people to focus on the very present moment, just noticing whatever they are experiencing, be it pleasant or unpleasant, without trying to change it.


Psychological therapies such as CBT are the main treatment for depression in young people. In some cases a doctor may think that antidepressant medication may also be necessary.

The most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant medication are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Like most medicines, antidepressants can have side-effects such as nausea, headaches and drowsiness, which are usually mild and short-term. 

The decision to start taking antidepressants is made in consultation with a doctor, after careful assessment and consideration. Your doctor will be able to talk through with you which is the best medication for you. Once you start taking antidepressant medication, it can take at least two weeks before you'll start to feel better, and in the beginning, some of your symptoms might feel worse.

Regular check-ups are important, especially in the first four weeks of starting antidepressants. Any decision to stop taking medication must be discussed with your doctor, as stopping suddenly can make your depression worse.


Support groups and online forums

Support groups for people with anxiety and depression are conducted by people who have faced similar experiences. These groups can provide an opportunity to connect with others, share personal stories and find new ways to deal with difficulties. 

Contact your local community health centre or the mental health association/foundation in your state or territory to find your nearest group, or try searching online. 

Some people prefer to share their stories and information, or seek and offer support, via online forums. ReachOut and Youth Beyond Blue both have forums you can join.


E-therapies, also known as online therapies or computer-aided psychological therapy, can be just as effective as face-to-face services for people with mild to moderate anxiety and depression. 

Most e-therapies teach people to identify and change patterns of thinking and behaviour that might be keeping them from overcoming their anxiety or depression. You work through the program by yourself but most programs also involve some form of support from a therapist. This can be via telephone, email, text, or instant messaging, and will help you to successfully apply what you are learning to your life.

You can visit the Australian Government's Head to Health website to find a library of online programs.

If you are a young person who would like help managing worry and anxiety, the BRAVE Self-Help Program can be used on any computer or tablet device and includes up to 10 sessions that you can work through at your own pace. If you have a parent or guardian who would like to support you with your anxiety, there is also an optional program for them.

ReachOut has launched two free mobile apps to help young people independently manage anxiety and stress, using evidence based psychological therapies. ReachOut Breathe uses simple visuals to help young people slow down their heart rate through their breathing, increasing feelings of calmness and reducing physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. It is one of the world’s first wellbeing apps specifically designed for Apple Watch, and is also available for iPhone. ReachOut Worry, which is available for iPhone and Android phones, helps young people manage anxiety by confining worry to a specific time each day. Learning to capture and then postpone worry makes it less intrusive throughout the day, and can bring about a greater sense of control.

These apps are part of a growing range of online tools and information developed by ReachOut Australia. You can download ReachOut Breathe from the App Store, or download ReachOut WorryTime from the App Store, or the Google Play store.