32 thoughts on “Bipolar Disorder Medication Spotlight: Benzodiazepines for Anxiety

  • September 12, 2009 at 8:48 am


    I have been taking Xanax for a few years for generalized anxiety. I could not dream up a better drug for myself. Despite good counseling, exercise, etc., I still have a strong tendency towards anxiety. Xanax works well for my anxiety with no side effects. It gives me flexibility in dosing – I use as much or as little as needed, including zero on some days. When I do not need it, I experience no withdrawal effects, nor have I experienced a general need for increased dose.

    The only drawback is that it can make me sleepy, but I have gotten fairly good at taking small enough amounts to minimize that. It’s very good long-term option for me, especially given that SSRIs cause problems for me.


  • September 15, 2009 at 10:18 am

    I have anxiety problems along with being bi-polar (whatever that is exactly) and am having to use a regular dose of Klonepin for the anxiety which seems to work well. I have high blood pressure (seriously high blood pressure which requires some help with the stress and anxiety). It is a never ending merry go round of meds and I haven’t found perfect one yet. I am now going through pretty bad depression episode and don’t know what to try next…


  • September 16, 2009 at 6:42 am

    I take Abilify and Sertraline (Zoloft)daily but have Klonopin available if my anxiety breaks out. I find the biggest advantage is one you mentioned – that it calms me to know that I have a med available if I panic. I find the Klonopin sedates me a little too much so I avoid taking it unless I really have to…the prescription is to take 0.5 mg up to twice a day but if took it twice in one day, I’d never get out of bed. As it is, I take one once a week or so, and am glad to have it as an option.

  • September 16, 2009 at 7:12 am

    The few times I’ve been on benzos (Valium and Serepax), within a week I was addicted and needing more. Even with 2.5mg of Valium a night prescribed, I was soon taking 40mg at a time.

    While very effective for anxiety, I personally cannot use them as I’m extremely prone to downing a bottle in time of stress.

    Should possibly add I was on Zoloft at the time, now also take Zyprexa, and started at 16, now 18.

  • September 16, 2009 at 8:15 am

    My experience with “benzos” was not a happy one. I was prescribed Ativan for sleep but found quickly that it was not strong enough. I was then given Klonopin, which worked better. Soon I was having terrible daytime agitation and irritability. My doctor was on vacation and his on call suggested I increase my intake of Klonopin. Soon I was taking 1mg three times each day plus another mg to sleep at night. This proved to be too high a dose for me, and when I found I was going to run out of pills before my doctor was back to prescribe them, I called every doctor I had spoken to before to try to get a new prescription. No one could prescribe it for me, and I found myself in the ER in a panic, and feeling suicidal. I was admitted and when I saw the doctor in the hospital, he took one look as me and saw that I wa heavily sedated, but still agitated and panicky. I had thoughts of taking entire bottles of medicine to try to feel better. He weaned me off of Klonopin and I am no longer using “benzos.” It seems to me that many doctors treat this class of drugs very casually and allow patients to regulate their own intake of the drugs. In my case, it was not a good idea because even in larger doses, I was having the opposite of the expected reaction which was leading me to take more and more of the drug. I was in the hospital for 11 days largely because of Klonopin.

  • September 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

    I was prescribed Klonopin about 15 years ago for severe panic attacks and general anxiety. I had just started therapy for DID/clinical depression and was also prescribed Zoloft. The initial dose was 1 mg. 3 times a day. That helped very much but certainly did not make me sleepy at all. I have to add that at that time I was an active alcoholic consuming close to a quart of whiskey a day. Before I started Klonopin I could barely speak to anyone without blushing profusely. This stopped immediately when I started Klonopin, what a relief. Over the following years there have been short periods where I have taken 4 mg. per day but as my psychotherapy progresses I find taking 2 mg. per day works very well. I have since stopped drinking without having the feeling that I needed to replace the drinking with a higher dose of Klonopin. I have also taken Ativan for brief periods.

  • September 16, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Have been on Prozac so long I needed something for panic. Was given Klonopin. Hated it because it made me feel like I was underwater. But it did work for the panic. Then went on Topomax. Hated that too. Kept getting those “shocks” in the back of my head. Finally found the mix that seems to work. Fluoxtine (40 mg morning, 20 mg afternoon); Aplenzin 348 mg (instead of Wellbutrin XL 150 because of cost); 70 mg. Not sure why this works, but almost no panic, am awake most of the time (haha)and depression I can handle most of the time.

  • September 16, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    I’m diagnosed with anxiety, bipolar type I, and adhd. I was put on clonazepam (klonopin) for my anxiety and adderrol for my adhd which was the completely wrong thing to do bc I suffer from addiction as well (goes hand in hand w/ bipolar). I would not suggest these medications bc they are benzos and they can become addictive. i was on such a high dosage of clonazepam, that I had some pretty serious withdrawls when a new psychiatrist took me off of them.

  • September 16, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    How come who were given the benzos 30 years ago are looked like dirt and treaded like crap by doctors. Doctors should know that in the 60 and 70s they were given mlike candy. I started to take them for a slipped disc. I am tired of the way you friends, family ,and doctors treat you. No one for at least 30 years wARNED ME OF ANYTHING.

  • September 16, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    My son has been on many ADHD and SSRI’s but never helped him feel “good”. When he took Abilify and Prozac – he felt great and acted very appropriate. It seemed to be enough for his severe anxiety also.
    Just read about Adult ADHD on Web MD and he is that to a tee. Not sure how his bipolar was diagnosed. The meds above worked beautifully but he needed something for sleep – trazadone was given.

  • September 17, 2009 at 9:57 am



    Iatrogenic addiction is real, sad and rampant. As a former victim who’s totally recovered from a doctor manufactured Klonopin habit of 12 years, I owe my new healthy life (the result of a 3 year withdrawl detox plan) partially to the folks from these web sites.

    Good luck to others who desire to be free of benzodiazpines.


  • September 17, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I take zoloft and trileptal for bipolar disorder and flexeril and klonipin for fibromyalgia. I am on a standard dose of Klonipin 0.5 mg in the morning and 0.5 mg at night. I don’t have daytime sleepiness anymore although I did at first. I don’t tremor anymore from fibromyalgia. I am dependent on Klonipin but not addicted. If I were to stop using it I would have withdrawal but I have no need to increase my dose. By managing my bipolar symptoms my previous abuse of drugs and alcohol is also controlled. After 20 years of abuse I can now have ONE drink and not need more and I take all my meds as perscribed. Everyone is different and each case needs to be individualized. Now and again I have severe anxiety but instead of reaching for an extra Klonipin I change my focus to take my mind off my anxiety and I also remind myself that I take Klonipin so the anxiety will not get worse but better.

  • September 18, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I have been taking Klonopin for 6 years now, and I find that it is integral in helping me with my day to day life.

    I take some for sleep and then .5 mg as needed for stress. I become highly agitated in stressful situations, and just 1 pill is enough to help me function–at most once a week.

    I’ve never had to increase the dosage to deal with stress, but I have had to increase the dosage for sleep over time to 2 mg at night. Other sleep medications are either too expensive or have very bad side effects.

    It has been a battle with my doctor, because she doesn’t want to increase the dose as needed. I go to a clinic, and she has only seen me a few times. Yet, she acts like I’m an addict when I ask for an increased dose for sleep.

    When I first started taking the medication, my doctor at the time told me flat out that I would have to increase as I went along, but that if it worked, then that was all that mattered.

    It is frustrating that I have been successfully managing my bipolar for so many years, yet doctors don’t see Klonopin the way I do. Another tool to help manage the disease.

  • September 24, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar I, ultradian cycle. I take 200 mg of lamotrigine, which seems to stabilized me somewhat. I have debilitating levels of anxiety for which I was prescribed clonazepam, 1mg bid. Because it made me too sedated, it was first dropped to .5mg bid and then .5 daily.

    It was only when I dropped down to .5 daily that I realized I still had been experiencing a level of sedation which interfered with my energy levels and my affect. It’s a balancing act for me-how much anxiety am I willing to experience-in order to feel “more like myself.”

  • September 27, 2009 at 2:05 pm


    I have struggled for years with depression/anxiety disorder and too have been on so many medications/wholistic help/ acupuncture etc. When I was on Klonapin it eventually turned on me and gave me sucidal depression which I had never ever encountered … this went on for a year and finally put it together. The doctors could not put the puzzle together … and I have had multiple friends the same has happened. I just wanted to share that with you. I have since had the VNS implant put in as of two years ago … used for refractory depression and it is starting to work miracles in my life … it too is used for bi-polar. I will pray that all gets worked out for you because my experience with that benzodizapene was absolutely horrible … after I was on it for a while. Blessings, Shellie

  • October 30, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Took Ativan 20 years ago for panic disorder and Diazepam (Valium) lately for PTSD. Am currently taking Diazepam again as recent PTSD flareup has occurred. Maximum script is 5mg 3x daily but rarely reach that as makes me dopey. Sometimes take 1/2 tab. As I tend to be a very compliant patient, understanding the dangers and symptoms of addiction, I don’t have too many problems with developing dependence upon habit-forming drugs. If I find a prescribed dosage isn’t working, I look to alternative methods to supplement the meds, such as relaxation techniques or exercise. Benzos are a definite help to me, especially now when my startle response is acute. Keeps me from slugging someone! 🙂 Also helped when panic disorder was present. They deninitely have their place but I know how powerful they are and how addicting they can be.

  • November 9, 2009 at 8:03 am

    should i take my meds at a regular time each day?

  • January 8, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Vickie and all, yes I know how dependent one can become on Ativan. I was on .05 2x’s per day and am still on 1.0 at bedtime. My psych cut the .05’s right away (when I first saw her.) I hated her for awhile and then I loved her. I am having trouble sleeping right now (manic maybe) I don’t work and have soc.sec. disability. Lately, the days are so long and I can’t sit in front of the t.v. anymore like I used to ( which is good and bad.) What’s aggravating is that I’m smoking more taking 3 puffs at a time and putting it out. I want to quit but I don’t know if my anxiety is too great. Sometimes I just want to take more ativan and sometimes do. Right now I’m tryin 3 trazadone, 2 ambien ( which is a problem for my ins. co. but not my doctor.) Thank God, I go to the doctor now every month and sometimes more instead of worrying about the cost. God help us all. By the way,my ins. company is very strict about filling ativan too early.

  • September 1, 2010 at 9:18 am

    I’ve been taking klonopin for somewhere upwards of 25 years. I started because huge amount of Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my legs. A Neurologist realized it was restless leg syndrome and started me on klonopin and it worked.
    My biggest problems are that it’s not as effective for anxiety any more and my cannot take more than I already am. I have agoraphobia. A little side effect from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which causes different types of anxiety.
    Another problem is when I change Doctors. They don’t like me taking it. Sometimes they try to wean me off.
    Also, the withdrawal is absolutely horrible. Sometimes I forget to get my prescription filled and I end up dealing with this. It seems many people aren’t aware of how severe this can be.
    There are other smaller difficulties taking this medication, but the benefits far outweigh the problems. It’s an awesome medication, but one that needs a great deal of respect in regards to the first few times taking it, and running out of it.

  • September 4, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I feel badly to know so many people are in the same situation or have been, yet it is comforting to know that I am not the only one. I too was put on Klonopin for GAD, along with (initially)Pristiq, Abilify, and lamictal and ambien. My first dr just kept adding things rather than change dosages (this all occured within a 3 month period). Due to pharmacy error (which left me feeing like it was my fault or I was to blame some how) my 2nd rx for klonopin was doubled (pharmacy dosed me at 1mg instead of .5mg) and was then set at 4 times per day. Believe it or not, this did not inhibit my daiy function or increase sedation levels. I was then put on Zanax at .5 4xday. This was HORRIFIC. It had the exact opposite effect, even though it was in the same family as the Klonopin that I rely on (in smaller dose now of course). I was hospitalized and labeled as “zanax OD”. this made my drs not want to give me my klonopin back even though I tried to tell them early on that the zanax didn’t feel right or like it helped and that the Knlonopin was best for me. I found another dr and she was willing to give me back the klonopin, after we tried many alternatives (trazadone, some anti-histamine…..) and , as I knew I would not, I have not had any “self dosing/medicating” problems with the klonopin. I too feel like I am looked at as a drug seeker for relying on this family of medication, but do not know what I would do with out it. I hope this may add to some one elses feelings that they are not alone and do not have to feel labeled, as viewing these posts gave me this feeling of not being alone and mactually made me feel better about my situation.

  • September 7, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    yes this year has been a rough year the doc put me on lexapro for depression and that made me sudcide they added abilfy and got better for a while but the side effects weere too bad and so i started to see another doctor he diagnoise me with bipolar and should of been diagnoise years ago well my insurance would not cover him so he put me on kolopin and resdual and seem to be doing ok for a while than had to switch drs they put me on lithum and haldol and coggentin had to go to the er due to allergy reacction now i said screw it and just been taking half kolopin a day seems to be doing ok but i had been off them for 4 days and went into some major withdrawls i dont think dr treat u good they treat u like guinea pigs

  • September 10, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I am writing this letter to help those who are suffering the effects of prescription drugs, and offer them a safe, effective alternative. Seven weeks ago, my sister went into another of her schizoaffective disorder-related relapses. Deciding that this would be a good opportunity to try something different, I began tapering her off her anti-psych meds, that were giving her horrible side-effects, and at the same time, started her on herbal therapies. After the tapering was over, I began with the detox vitamins and Omega-3. It’s been almost a month, now, since the tapering ended, and she is much better now, and improving every day. Please, go to a naturopath, and get off the toxic pharmaceuticals! Cure the disease, don’t just cover it up! And don’t be fooled, as half of Americans are, by the drug companies. They are only interested in huge profits, and pleasing their shareholders.

  • September 11, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Hi, Wally–

    I wish your sister all the best, but I also wish you would not make such sweeping generalizations. Pharmaceutical medications have played a valuable role in helping people with a variety of severe mental illnesses to avoid lengthy hospital stays and much of the suffering that accompanies mental illness.

    Not all medications work for all people, and all medications have side effects, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Nor should anyone offer medical advice based on a single experience with one individual over the period of one month.

    We don’t defend some of the practices of pharmaceutical companies and have written about practices we disagree with, but you cannot deny that pharmaceutical companies do considerable good. Yes, a profit motive is involved, and yes, sometimes the profit motive appears to influence decisions in a negative way, but pharmaceutical companies do contribute positively to health care, including mental wellness, and medications are often necessary in treating a wide variety of illnesses.

  • September 13, 2010 at 1:37 am

    I have been taking the same dosage of Klonopin for about 25 yrs. at night .5 mg (can take up to 2) as I get terrible chest pains from anxiety at night that prevents me from sleeping. As I have bipolar 1 & have had manic episodes occur due to not sleeping this has assisted me enormously. It does makes me sleepy & I very rarely take it during the day as I don’t want to be sleepy during the day, but I am going through some chronic pain issues now & am being seen & tested by some neurologists & have been in the ER due to the incredible unrelenting pain so sometimes when I am going in for some painful testing I will take .5 of the Klonopin as my blood pressure goes sky high when I don’t & also I get to crying in the waiting area & that is just so embarrassing for me.

    I don’t take the Klonopin every night as these pain issues make it so difficult to sleep so by about the 3rd night of not sleeping well I’m so totally exhausted that I don’t need anything to help me sleep (Trazodone either).

    Also, another different chronic pain issue I have been dealing w/for 2 yrs. w/a pain management doc is w/back pain that cannot be treated or “cured”–only try to manage the pain which I do w/pain medication that I take only in the morning when the pain is the worst (though I am “allowed” to take it during the day as well) but the pain management doc said to NOT TAKE FISH OIL SUPPLEMENTS as this interferes w/the effectiveness of the pain medication so always check out any supplements you are taking w/your doc.

    Brother has a genetic neurological condition that I am being tested for (DNA test) that I surely hope I don’t have as the symptoms are similar to ALS; he is a year younger than I & has lost his sight & is in a wheel chair. But I have this incredible, weird pain in my hands & wrists…

  • September 14, 2010 at 1:40 am

    I started taking Xanax about 2 yrs ago to help with anxiety that started to plague me. I am diagnosed Bi-Polar I. I started having pretty severe anxiety attacks that would paralize me for about 15-20 mins. I started on .5mg and then got bumped up to 1mg tablets. I never knew what triggered my attacks. They would happen anywhere and everywhere. At that time I never knew I was gonna get addicted to them, but in the end I did. I overdosed so bad on the Xanax alone that I basically forgot who I was. By the time my husband called the ambulance and got me to the hospital I forgot when I was born, where I was, my name, key information about myself that I SHOULD know. I was vomiting, My mind was in and out and I kept repeating “I want it to stop” and I did not know or could not say what was suppose to stop. I couldn’t urinate at all and had to have a catheter just so they could get a urine sample. I spent 4 days in the hospital recovering. It was like a horror story.
    I don’t blame my doctor for giving me the drug. He was doing the best he could in helping me with my anxiety attacks. The drug(s) I was taking in the end got the better of me. I went into drug rehab at the beginning of this year. I am no longer on those drugs and will never be. I just want people to know that Benzos by themselves in abundance can really do some damage and I had to find that out the hard way.


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