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Does Anxiety Medication Actually Work

Using Alprazolam For Anxiety

Alternatives to Anti-Anxiety Drugs that Really Work, with Dr. Daniel Amen

Alprazolam is one of the most prescribed medications in the world. One might say that it’s prescribed too often, because most people are given Alprazolam by doctors, not psychologists. No medication should be a person’s first choice when they’re trying to manage their anxiety, rather medication needs to be a last resort, after you’ve tried other non-mediciated options. Furthermore, while many people just want to take a pill to address their anxiety, the best results are actually found when using medication in conjunction with therapy.

Why To Avoid Medicine

The main reason to avoid Xanax and other anxiety medications unless you need them is because they don’t cure your anxiety. They merely dull it. Eventually, if you stop taking the medicine, your anxiety will always come back.

That’s clearly a problem. These medications already have trouble with side effects, tolerance, and addiction , but perhaps their greatest problem is that they dull anxiety without helping a person truly fix the problem. Eventually you’ll quit the medication, your anxiety will come back, and you’ll find yourself suffering. That’s why you need to make sure that you never depend on medication alone.

The Science Behind Anxiety

The thing about anxiety is that theres not just one type. Generalized anxiety disorder is typically the most common, but people can also suffer from panic disorder and phobia-related disorders. Still, the mechanisms behind anxiety itself are all pretty similar, regardless of what specific condition it manifests as.

Anxiety happens when theres an imbalance in the emotional processing center of the brain. This part of the brain is called the limbic system, and its made up of regions like the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus.

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People who are feeling anxious often have increased activity in these areas, meaning their brain is perpetually caught in a fight-or-flight response. This explains the rapid heartbeat, tight muscles, and shallow breathing that typically accompany anxiety. This overstimulation of the limbic system also leads to an imbalance of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, which well go more into below.

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How Do I Know If I Need Anxiety Medication

Anxiety, or worry, is common and normal to experience from time to time.1 However, some people experience high levels of anxiety that are hard to manage and affect other areas of their lives on a daily basis. If this is the case, you may be dealing with an anxiety disorder which could benefit from treatment that may include therapy, medication, or both.

Medication isnt a cure for anxiety, but it can help improve anxiety symptoms for many different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.1 If your anxiety is moderate to severe, hard to control, recurrent, and/or affects your ability to function in other areas of your life, then you may benefit from medication.

There are several different types of medications that can help treat anxiety disorders. Finding the right medication for you can take time, so patience is important. Meeting with a therapist while taking medication is also recommended to fully address your symptoms and help you recover.

Important Information About Anxiety Medication

What over the counter drugs actually work at reducing anxiety?

Medication often takes longer to treat anxiety than it does to treat depression. It might take several weeks for the medication to take effect. Studies show that anxiety medication works better if someone also has therapy.

Anxiety medication can cause side effects in some people. These may include:

  • difficulty with sexual drive or arousal

These side effects normally fade away, but if you are experiencing side effects from anxiety, always tell your doctor as they may be able to help.

Some antidepressants can cause a harmful reaction when taken with certain other medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you take any other medications, including sleeping pills and painkillers.

Take your anxiety medication as prescribed. Do not adjust doses on your own without consulting your doctor. Dont drink alcohol while taking anti-anxiety medication.

If you are not sure about taking medications to treat anxiety, ask your doctor about the following:

  • What are the benefits of the particular medication for anxiety?
  • What are the risks of the medication?
  • What are the possible side effects?

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What Are The Treatments For Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Medication for Anxiety

Medication is useful for alleviating the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and is often prescribed in conjunction with other therapies. Some types of anxiety drugs can be habit-forming and are usually prescribed on a short-term or as-needed basis.

Different anxiety disorders have different medication regimens. Some are preventive and some are designed to cure the problem.

Antidepressants, particularly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , are widely used to treat and prevent a variety of anxiety disorders. Examples of SSRIs that are commonly used to treat chronic anxiety include citalopram , escitalopram , fluoxetine , paroxetine , and sertraline . The antidepressantsduloxetine and venlafaxine , SNRIs which act on the brain chemicals serotonin and norephinephrine, and some of the tricyclic antidepressants like imipramine , may also help. Novel antidepressants such as mirtazepine are also prescribed at times.Ã

Another anti-anxiety drug is busprirone . It has fewer side effects than the benzodiazepines and is not associated with dependence. Buspar, however, can have its own side effects and may not always be as effective when a person has taken benzodiazepines in the past.

Therapy for Anxiety

Psychotherapy, with or without medication, is often considered a fundamental aspect of treatment for generalized anxiety disorder.

Lifestyle Modifications to Alleviate Anxiety

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What Should You Consider When Deciding Whether Or Not To Take Antidepressants

Whether antidepressants are an option will depend on things like the severity of the symptoms. Other aspects can also play a role in the decision:

  • Are you going to psychotherapy or are you planning to?
  • Have you taken antidepressants before and did they help?
  • How bad do you think the potential side effects are compared to the possible benefits?

It only makes sense to use antidepressants if the is correct. Specialists believe that some people are prescribed antidepressants unnecessarily. The fact that a lot more people take antidepressants nowadays suggests that this is true. They are sometimes already prescribed for milder symptoms, even though it’s not clear whether they help in mild .

But it’s still important to make sure that severe is diagnosed and treated properly. Antidepressants can be helpful here, and for some people may be the only way that they can get back into a daily routine or start going to psychotherapy.

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Are There Any Nonmedication Ways To Help With Anxiety

Besides medications, there are different approaches to helping treat symptoms linked with anxiety. Therapy and lifestyle changes are two helpful options that dont involve medications.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on working with a person who experiences anxiety. It teaches different ways to approach fears and certain social situations. This may also include different relaxation exercises to practice at home.

Lifestyle changes

Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can all cause or raise your levels of anxiety. It may be helpful to lower your intake of these substances or avoid them altogether to help control symptoms.

Symptoms Of Klonopin Misuse And Abuse

How Does Anxiety Work?

Some will abuse Klonopin because it makes the user feel totally relaxed and euphoric. Signs that someone is abusing Klonopin include:

  • Clumsiness due to dizziness
  • Drowsiness

Klonopin can cause life-threatening problems. If the following side effects occur, the person needs to seek help immediately.

  • Unable to breathe properly to the point of suffocation
  • A rash develops
  • The person may have a seizure

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What Are Anxiety Medications And How Do They Work

Anxiety is a normal and useful response to potentially stressful or dangerous situations. It increases our awareness of what’s going on around us. For most people, anxiety is short-lived and normally goes away once the situation has passed. This is not the case for an estimated 40 million adults in the United States who have some type of anxiety disorder and experience ongoing and unwarranted psychological distress. That distress may also manifest itself in physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, or chest pain.

Anxiety medications include multiple types of drugs that are used to treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders. The three most commonly prescribed types of anxiety medication are

  • anti-anxiety medications , and
  • beta-blockers.

Antidepressants and anxiolytic medications work primarily by affecting the balance of certain chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. Beta-blockers and other types of drugs are used to address the physical symptoms that may accompany an anxiety attack. First-generation antihistamines are also used to help with anxiety symptoms because they have a sedating effect.

Anxiety disorders are associated with certain chemical imbalances in the brain involving neurotransmitters such as

These chemicals are associated with an individual’s sense of well-being or with the ability to relax.

Psychological Therapies For Gad

If you have been diagnosed with GAD, you’ll usually be advised to try psychological treatment before you’re prescribed medication.

You can get psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy and applied relaxation on the NHS.

You can refer yourself directly to an NHS psychological therapies service without a referral from a GP.

Or your GP can refer you if you prefer.

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How Effectively Do Antidepressants Relieve The Symptoms

There are a lot of different medications for treating . But it’s difficult to predict how well a particular medication will help an individual. So doctors often first suggest taking a drug that they consider to be effective and relatively well tolerated. If it doesn’t help as much as expected, it’s possible to switch to a different medication. Sometimes a number of different drugs have to be tried before you find one that works.

Studies show that the benefit generally depends on the severity of the : The more severe the depression, the greater the benefits will be. In other words, antidepressants are effective against chronic, moderate and severe depression. They don’t help in mild depression.

The various antidepressants have been compared in many studies. Overall, the commonly used tricyclic antidepressants were found to be equally effective. Studies involving adults with moderate or severe have shown the following:

  • Without antidepressants: About 20 to 40 out of 100 people who took a placebo noticed an improvement in their symptoms within six to eight weeks.
  • With antidepressants: About 40 to 60 out of 100 people who took an antidepressant noticed an improvement in their symptoms within six to eight weeks.

In other words, antidepressants improved symptoms in about an extra 20 out of 100 people.

Antidepressants can also relieve long-term symptoms of chronic depressive disorder and chronic , and help make them go away completely.

How Well Can Antidepressants Prevent Relapses

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Antidepressants are usually taken for one to two years, and sometimes longer, to prevent relapses. Relapse prevention may be a good idea for people who

  • have already had several relapses,
  • absolutely want to avoid a relapse, or
  • have chronic .

Studies involving adults have shown that taking commonly used antidepressants such as TCAs, SSRIs or SNRIs can lower the risk of relapses, but can’t completely prevent them:

  • Without preventive treatment: About 50 out of 100 people who took a placebo had a relapse within one to two years.
  • With preventive treatment: About 23 out of 100 people who took an antidepressant had a relapse within one to two years.

In other words, taking an antidepressant over a long period of time successfully prevented a relapse in an average of 27 out of 100 people.

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How Do I Know If I Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The first step is to rule out the possibility that your symptoms are being caused by a medical condition that is not psychiatric. Among the conditions that produce symptoms similar to those of anxiety are hyperthyroidism or other endocrine problems, too much or too little calcium, low blood sugar, and certain heart problems. Certain medicines also can sometimes cause anxiety. A thorough evaluation by your health care provider will determine if any of these conditions are the cause of your symptoms.

If no other medical culprit can be found and the symptoms seem out of proportion to any situation you are facing, you may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

What The Science Says

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, clinical studies of Prozac show it to be effective in managing symptoms of certain anxiety disorders like panic disorder.

There arent, however, a lot of that show Prozacs effectiveness for generalized anxiety disorder, or how it compares with other medications approved to treat symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Other SSRI

also show that cognitive behavioral therapy , when used along with antidepressants to manage symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, can help people stay with their medication treatment and improve symptoms long-term.

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The Role Of Medication In Anxiety Treatment

When youre overwhelmed by heart-pounding panic, paralyzed by fear, or exhausted from yet another sleepless night spent worrying, youll do just about anything to get relief. And theres no question that when anxiety is disabling, medication may help. But are drugs always the best answer?

Many different types of medications are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, including traditional anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines and newer options like SSRI antidepressants . These drugs can provide temporary relief, but they also come with side effects and safety concernssome significant.

They are also not a cure. In fact, there are many questions about their long-term effectiveness. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, benzodiazepines lose their therapeutic anti-anxiety effect after 4 to 6 months of regular use. And a recent analysis reported in JAMA Psychiatry found that the effectiveness of SSRIs in treating anxiety has been overestimated, and in some cases is no better than placebo.

Whats more, it can be very difficult to get off anxiety medications without difficult withdrawals, including rebound anxiety that can be worse than your original problem.

You Regularly Fly Off The Handle

How do antidepressants actually work? [SSRIS]

Do you find yourself getting annoyed or irritated by the smallest little things? If it happens a lot, it could be a sign of anxiety.

Researchers at Concordia University recently found a possible reason for this link. According to the researchers, when the outcome of a situation could be good or bad, anxious people tend to assume the worst. That results in heightened anxiety.

Calming your anxious thoughtsnaturally or with the help of an anti-anxiety medication prescribed by a cliniciancan improve your mood and relationships.

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What Can You Do Yourself

Many people with generalized anxiety disorder don’t even think of going to see a doctor. They try to manage their fears on their own, for example using books or information from the internet. Some learn relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training or yoga. The effectiveness of these kinds of strategies for managing anxiety disorders on your own is not well studied in scientific studies. Relaxation techniques are often used in psychological treatments, but it isn’t known how effective they are when used alone.

Some people try herbal sedatives like valerian, lavender or passion flower. There hasn’t been much research on these products either. Many people assume that herbal remedies are better tolerated and safer than other kinds of medicine. But they can also have side effects and may influence the effects of other medication.

People who treat an anxiety disorder on their own may only seek professional help after a very long time. If an anxiety disorder is really affecting your everyday life, certain kinds of psychological treatment and medication can help.

Signs Your Anxiety May Be More Serious Than You Think

Many studies support the use of meditation, qi gong, and tai qi to help calm and center brain activity. In my clinic, acupuncture is a reliable remedy to help the mind and spirit rebalance, even if the conscious mind is not completely on board yet.

It is also crucial to begin reprogramming unhealthy brain messages. Sometimes I will read Buddhist philosophy books with my patients so they can begin replacing negative thoughts with positive ones while contemplating existential life questions that may be at the root of the anxiety.

There may be no one treatment for mood issues and anxiety. But a thoughtful synergy of recommendations that address the various aspects of the body and mind can result in bringing anxiety under control while helping the brain process and heal.

Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc practices in New York, and recently authored Healing Depression: Integrated Naturopathic and Conventional Therapies.

References

Pagura J, Katz LY, Mojtabai R, Druss BG, Cox B, Sareen J. Antidepressant use in the absence of common mental disorders in the general population. J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 72:494-501.

Belleville G. Mortality hazard associated with anxiolytic and hypnotic drug use in the National Population Health Survey. Can J Psychiatry. 2010 55:558-67.

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How Experts First Treat Anxiety

Once you understand the type of anxiety youre dealing with, you can start to explore measures with a physician or mental health professional who can help you manage the symptoms. While anxiety can present itself in many different forms, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: They are highly treatable, and most of them respond well to medication, said Chelsea Hudson, licensed therapist in Chicago and founder of Cityscape Counseling.

However, that doesnt mean you should immediately head to your doctor to get a prescription. Many people think medication is a magic bullet to feeling better, Baksh said, but in reality, its part of a comprehensive treatment plan that should also include other interventions, such as lifestyle changes and therapy.

Seeking professional help from a counselor, guided imagery, family and peer support and meditation have all been shown to help alleviate anxiety, Baksh said. Cognitive behavioral therapy in particular has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety disorders, Sistrunk said.

Lifestyle changes can also play a big role in managing anxiety. Incorporating more exercise into your day, improving your sleep and eating healthier can all help, said Katie Ziskind, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Connecticutand owner of Wisdom Within Counseling.

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