Medication can work very well for anxiety. For the most part these medications work quickly, providing almost immediate relief. This is especially appealing to those of you who may suffer from panic attacks and bouts of extremely uncomfortable symptoms. This immediate relief can make the wait between therapy appointments seem like less of a big deal. They may also make you feel like you don’t need therapy at all, just pop that pill and on you go!
But before you make that decision, lets look at the flip side.
1. Medication doesn’t always work.
Some people do not experience relief. Sometimes that fearful monkey chatter in your head just wont stop. The medications cannot change your thoughts. They can take the edge off some of the physical symptoms but the thought changing is up to you.
2. Medication can have harmful and/or unpleasant side effects.
Everyone has seen the TV advertisements for the side effects of all the drugs offered and unfortunately anxiety medications are not exempt. Even the side effects that are not harmful can make you feel lethargic and foggy, making it highly unlikely that you will be doing much introspection.
Some anxiety medications can be taken just as needed but those combined with an antidepressant usually need to be taken on a regular daily basis, leaving you feeling less than ideal every day. It is hard to experience joy or zest for life while feeling dulled. You may not set goals or work toward the things that would improve your life.
4. Medication can lull you into feeling everything is Ok, thereby interfering with any emotional growth.
When the immediate pain of the anxiety is removed, you feel better. Now that you feel better you may decide you don’t need to change or fix anything in your life, thereby guaranteeing that you will continue to experience unpleasant symptoms unless you remain medicated. Your motivation has left with the pain. You are not cured, you are numbed to the problem. Fixing the problem or your perception of the problem is really the only way to gain lasting relief.
Anxiety often stems from dysfunctional thought patterns, past traumas, lack of emotional skill or lack of problem solving abilities. These are all things that can be undone, learned or relearned, but you have to be an active participant in the process. Your body and system may be “tightly wound” and benefit from meditation, biofeedback and calming rituals.
5. Medication can interfere with your social life.
For the same reasons above, when you feel numbed or lethargic it becomes difficult to maintain social relationships. Friendships take work and expending that extra energy can be daunting. The problem with this is that social belonging is very important to your well-being and isolating yourself can actually bring about more anxiety and depression, resulting in you taking more medication and it becomes a vicious circle.
6. Medication can interfere with your career.
Many clients report losing their “edge” when taking anti-anxiety medications. They report feeling more anxious about performance or the loss of their job. For some it becomes an actual safety issue as they are responsible for machinery, driving, and the safety of others. They don’t want to share with their employers that they are taking medications for a mental health issue.
These are all things to consider when making the decision of whether to take medication for your anxiety. Sacrificing what quality of life you do have may make things worse. It may be a delicate balance of just enough medication to take the edge off but not enough to interfere with your energy.
This is a very important decision, one that will impact your life not just today but for years to come.
If you are currently taking medication for anxiety, don’t stop by yourself if you decide to try a different route. Discuss it with your doctor and let them give you a plan for weaning off or trying something else. Going “cold turkey” can have many negative and sometimes dangerous side effects.
Studies actually have shown that a combination of medication and therapy works the best for symptom reduction. As you learn new skills and master distressing emotions you are able to cut back on the amount of medication needed. Doing this with a qualified doctor or therapist is the safest method and will yield the best results, results that will last.