Effectiveness of complementary and self-help treatments for anxiety disorders

Med J Aust. 2004 Oct 4;181(S7):S29-46. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2004.tb06352.x.


Objectives: To review the evidence for the effectiveness of complementary and self-help treatments for anxiety disorders.

Data sources: Systematic literature search using PubMed, PsycLit, and the Cochrane Library.

Data synthesis: 108 treatments were identified and grouped under the categories of medicines and homoeopathic remedies, physical treatments, lifestyle, and dietary changes. We give a description of the 34 treatments (for which evidence was found in the literature searched), the rationale behind the treatments, a review of studies on effectiveness, and the level of evidence for the effectiveness studies.

Conclusions: The treatments with the best evidence of effectiveness are kava (for generalised anxiety), exercise (for generalised anxiety), relaxation training (for generalised anxiety, panic disorder, dental phobia and test anxiety) and bibliotherapy (for specific phobias). There is more limited evidence to support the effectiveness of acupuncture, music, autogenic training and meditation for generalised anxiety; for inositol in the treatment of panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder; and for alcohol avoidance by people with alcohol-use disorders to reduce a range of anxiety disorders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Complementary Therapies / standards*
  • Complementary Therapies / trends
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Self Medication / standards*
  • Self Medication / trends
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Treatment Outcome