To use anxiety medications, or to not use anxiety medications? It’s a question many of us have. But first, you have to ask yourself the real question – Have you’ve already exhausted every other option before considering medication for anxiety?
As an anxiety attack sufferer, I completely understand how choosing medication to cure anxiety seems like the ultimate solution. However, there are many things you need to think about first.
Personally, I don’t think medications are ever a good idea. They teach your body that it doesn’t have to work hard to solve whatever the problem is. Since your mind and body truly are the only cure for anxiety, I don’t recommend jumping at the opportunity of taking medications. However, there are some situations where I feel like anxiety medication can and should be a solution. There are also some medications that I would absolutely never recommend.
Before we move forward, it’s important to recognize that this post is specifically about medications for anxiety and not depression, although those medications do tend to overlap. Check out my depression blogs for information on meds specific to that condition.
Sedative VS. Preventative Anxiety Medications
I like to classify medications for panic attacks into two categories – addicting ones and less addictive ones. The highly addictive drugs are sedative types, such as Klonopin, Ativan and Xanax and they’re for instant relief of an anxiety attack. The less addictive drugs take on a more preventative approach and will decrease the frequency of panic attacks. However, they won’t provide immediate release. You still have to work through each attack, which is the only way to truly treat anxiety. These anxiety medications include Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Lexapro and Zoloft.
Just Say No to Sedative Drugs
For anyone suffering from panic attacks, you want something that instantly brings you out of those feelings that you hate so much. Sedative, fast-reacting anxiety medications can do that. However, you are also opening up your entire world to many more problems, such as addiction.
Just think about it. If you could take medication every time you felt anxious, you would. I know I sure as hell would, and this is why there are so many concerns associated with sedative medications. By taking these kinds of medications, you’re not dealing with your panic attacks directly. You’re only covering them up with medication.
With a pill in your purse, you won’t want to struggle through the panic attack. You’ll just take the meds, and the more times you take it, the less reactive it becomes. Eventually, you’ll need more to receive the same kind of relief as you experienced the first time you took one.
Yes, the effects of medications can be identical to those of illegal drugs.
Even if the medication itself isn’t addictive, you’ll become addicted to taking them simply because of the relief you feel. In addition, you’re also forbidding your brain from learning how to truly cure anxiety. It’s a recipe for disaster.
So for me, I don’t think these anxiety medications are ever the answer. No matter how awful my panic attacks have gotten, I refuse to take addictive, fast-relief drugs and for many reasons. Panic attacks suck; masking them with a different set of problems is even worse.
Preventative Anxiety Medication
Preventative anxiety medications are completely different from sedatives because you still get anxiety attacks. The difference is that they’re less intense and less frequent. They’re also less dangerous and addictive. Now, you may be wondering why you would even take medications if they don’t stop the panic attack, and the answer is simple.
These kinds of anxiety medications are intended to decrease the intensity and frequency of the attacks. So, when the anxiety does come, you’re able to deal with it better. This instantly builds your confidence because the anxiety attacks are easier, and you begin to fear them less. The less you fear anxiety attacks, the less you’ll have them. When you do have them, you’re better equipped, mentally, to handle them. It’s a wonderful cycle that slowly allows you to come off of the medication.
Now, these kinds of anxiety medications aren’t intended for permanent use. Sure, you can use them forever, but the goal is to get you comfortable so you can learn to deal with anxiety attacks more confidently and comfortably. Then, you wean yourself off and can work through panic attacks, sans the meds. It can be an excellent addition to your recovery, but it’s never the answer. Treatment for anxiety will always take more willpower and strength than anything else.
When is it Okay to Start Anxiety Medications?
With that said, you may be wondering if now is the time to start taking anxiety medications. As an anxiety sufferer since I was 7-years-old, I went until I was 21 without any form of medication. In fact, I was completely against it. I felt like they would not truly help the anxiety disorder. Well, I’ll tell you this – going on medication was the best thing I ever did. I was at a point in my life where I was so exhausted from dealing with panic attacks on a daily basis. Getting out of bed in the morning became the biggest struggle. I was just done; completely at my breaking point. I was over fighting with every day.
At such a low point, I was ready to take whatever action that was required to get better. But medication was my last option. I exhausted everything else first – counseling, therapy, self-help books, exercise, healthy diet, meditation, breathing practices, etc. I’m not saying those things don’t work (because they do work), but with where I was at in life, I needed something more.
I think it’s incredibly important to try everything else first. If then, and only then, you still feel like you can’t go on anymore living the way you are, then do your research. Speak with doctors and find a medication that is best suited for you.
Don’t Rely on Medications
The most important thing I’ll tell you about medication for anxiety is to never start it with the intention of staying on them. When I started taking Effexor, my goal was to get myself back to some sort of normal, so I could actually deal with my panic attacks and move forward. My goal was never to stay on medication for the rest of my life. It was an option to help get myself back on my feet.
And that’s exactly what I’ve done. Since medication for mental illness is very much so a trial and error process, I raised my dosage three times before I found a level where I felt really great. Prior to that, I would try a dosage and it would work for a year and then I would have my anxiety attacks full-blown. I would then raise the dosage again, and a year later, my panic attacks were explosive. So, I raised it again. I was starting to get worried that my body was already becoming used to the medication, so it required more to achieve the same effect. Thankfully, my last dosage was accurate. It was enough for me to feel comfortable. The amazing thing is that since then, I have actually decreased my medication two times – back to the first dosage I tried. More importantly, I feel excellent.
So, my advice for anxiety medications is to find your dosage, get comfortable, then come off of it – as per instructed by a doctor.
To sum up this incredibly long anxiety blog post about medication for anxiety attacks, I would say that meds aren’t the answer. They never will be, but they can be the help you need to regain the self-confidence you need to battle such an exhausting mental illness. More importantly, you need to stay away from sedative, fast-reactive anxiety medications. They’re just bad news.