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Anxiety… When to Take Medication

This blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Amy Margolis Registered MSW.

In an earlier blog this month, I recommended five practices to alleviate anxiety: 1. get physical, 2. keep a journal, 3. see a good therapist, 4. meditate, and 5. stay mindfully in the present. In many cases, doing all five on a regular basis may do the trick. However, if you are doing all five and life is still a constant struggle, you may want to add medication to your regimen. You may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or a Panic Disorder.

If you have GAD you find yourself in a state of constant worry over many different activities and events. The worry seems to float from one thing to another (i.e.. family, work, relationships) and even though you know the anxiety is irrational, you feel powerless to control it. Symptoms may also include; difficulty with concentration, fatigue, irritability, sleep issues, and restlessness.

If you have a Panic Disorder, you are suffering with an anxiety disorder, in which you have repeated attacks of intense fear that something bad will happen. A panic attack begins suddenly and peaks within 10 to 20 minutes. The aftershocks may last up to an hour. You may mistake a panic attack for a heart attack. You may experience them when you are in a situation where an escape feels difficult (i.e.: being in a crowd or on a bus). If you have panic attacks you likely live with fear of having another or being far from help if you do. Symptoms of a panic attack will include four of the following: chest pain, dizziness, fear of dying, fear of losing control, feeling of choking, feeling of detachment, feeling of unreality, nausea, numbness, palpitations, shortness of breath, chills, hot flashes, and/or trembling.

If you see yourself in these definitions it may be time to consult a psychiatrist along with going to therapy. GAD seems to be greatly helped by antidepressants known as SSRIs (Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro and Effexor, to name a few) which should be taken daily. If you suffer with Panic Attacks, the doctor may prescribe a benzodiazepine (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, etc) which can be taken as needed.

Many people hesitate when medication is suggested. I’ve heard comments from clients like “I don’t want to be on a pill.” Yet many of these same clients self medicate their Anxiety and Panic Disorders with alcohol, food, drugs, etc to alleviate their suffering. The bottom line is if you have either of these diagnoses, it is very likely you have a chemical imbalance in your brain and there is miraculous help available in modern medicine coupled with a healthy lifestyle and a good therapist!

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