Anxiety and panic attacks – those ominous wolves in our head render us helpless and make us want to shut out the world. There are times when these feelings of dread become so grave that they paralyze us from doing anything but wish for it all to end. The mind is subjected to great pressure and your mental stability is put to risk.
Should you arrive at this point, it’s definitely best to seek medical help right away.
To treat anxiety disorder, doctors commonly prescribe their patients specific medications. All too often, though, they are almost recklessly prescribed for more minor conditions such as insomnia and less serious mood disorders. In fact, according to Psychology Today*, anxiety medications are the most prescribed medications by doctors, and at least one quarter of patients are misdiagnosed.
What’s The Deal with Anxiety Meds?
So, what’s the big deal? Plenty. Along with the (often deadly) side effects, these drugs are often taken with no clear long-term plan in mind. They become a harmful crutch, a way to deaden the symptoms (and weaken your mind) without confronting and attempting to solve them.
Anxiety drugs must only be taken while undergoing complementary therapy to ensure effectiveness. They should not be taken in and of themselves to alleviate anxiety symptoms. You must be attempting to deal with your condition and feelings for the long term, so you and your doctor knows when to stop treatment and continue with natural solutions.
Drugs, their side effects and probable risks
If you are prescribed anxiety medications, it is important to note what they are, and their side effects. Here is a list of the most common today:
Commonly referred to as tranquilizers, benzodiazepines slows and calms down the nervous system to relieve the patient of the stress brought upon by anxiety. After administering, patients begin to feel their effects in as fast as within a half hour to an hour.
But, efficiency and relief come with a considerable risk. Slowing the nervous system means slowing other functions of the brain itself. At low doses, ingesting benzodiazepines may already affect performance in daily activities such as those we do at home, work, in school, other public places, or even while driving. There are also occurrences of people experiencing some sort of after-effect like dizziness or headache the day after the medication has been taken.
These issues are normally experienced as nausea, clumsiness, sleepiness, difficulty in speech, lack of energy, disorientation, forgetfulness, blurred vision, misjudgment, dizziness and other mental or sensual perception impediments.
Consequently, a greater attention should be focused on another side effect – depression. Taking these medications could give you suicidal thoughts.
There are also reported but rare instances of side effects which appear to be the opposite of those earlier mentioned. These are rage, hostility, mania, hallucinations and aggression.
Finally, these medications can be addictive after only a few weeks, and the effects of withdrawal can be severe, such as a worsening in your anxiety to new and dangerous physical symptoms. Therefore you and your doctor must have a withdrawal management plan in place to gradually reduce your dosage when it is time to move beyond medication.
Buspirone / BuSpar
Not all antidepressants are meant to treat anxiety. Some are intended to help people regulate their amounts of stress-related depression. However, it is common for those experiencing depression to also be having anxiety issues such that taking antidepressants helps as well.
Examples of antidepressants include SSRIs, SNRIs, TCAs and MAOIs. Though not present to each of the ones previously listed, common side effects are diarrhea, loss of libido, nausea, and increase in weight.
Buspirone works by increasing the serotonin levels of the brain. However, it does not act as quickly as Benzodiazepines do. On the other hand, an advantage is that it does not sedate the patient, nor weaken his/her memory and coordination (though it should be noted that slow reactions is a possible side effect).
Also, it isn’t as addicting as other anti-anxiety drugs. This medication option is advisable for older patients and those with history of substance abuse.
Some other possible side effects include light-headedness, sleepiness, diarrhea, headache, difficulty in bowel movement, nausea and uneasy stomach.
Patients must not take Buspirone if he or she has used a MAOI (Monoamine oxidase inhibitor) in the past 14 days. Doing so could be fatal. The patient may only ingest Buspirone once it is sure that the inhibitor is already clear from his/her body.
Grapefruit or grapefruit juice should also be avoided when taking Buspirone as it may also lead to serious complications.
Should You Even Take Medications For Your Anxiety?
Anxiety medications should always be a last resort. All too often, they are prescribed as a “quick fix” in our busy world. As much as possible, you should try alternatives first, such as therapy or more natural options, which achieve longer lasting results.
However, there are instances when your anxiety is steadily getting worse, and that taking medications may be the best choice for temporary relief. While they should not be a life-long measure, they are definitely able to help alleviate your worst symptoms while you rebuild your health and search for a longer lasting solution. You should also be ready for any side effects, addiction possibilities and other safety issues.
When considering whether to take medications, you and your doctor ought to evaluate your condition first and check if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Taking anxiety medications is done under planned medical supervision. At some point, it has to end. Continuing beyond what is necessary may result in your body’s continuing dependence on the drug, which only makes your condition more complicated when you attempt to withdrawal or if your body becomes tolerant of the effects.
It’s important to carefully follow your doctors’ instructions in gradually ceasing the intake of your drug. If you suddenly stop, your body will go into withdrawal. After discontinuation, herbal supplements may assist you with the lingering symptoms. They can also possibly help with withdrawal symptoms. All this should be discussed with a medical professional.
Most important of all, you need a long-term plan. Medication is a short-term solution to help with the worst of your symptoms… a few weeks to a few months. You will need a clear path of when you will stop, and what mental and lifestyle strategies you need to create and practice.