Anxiety medication is commonly used to relieve the symptoms in conjunction with therapy. There are several different kinds of medications which you may be prescribed to treat an anxiety disorder. These include short-term treatments such as benzodiazepines (such as diazepam, Xanax or Valium) as well as medications which are intended to be taken as a longer term course of treatment, such as SSRI drugs like venlafaxine (Effexor) or fluoxetine.
Like any kind of medication, these drugs can give a measure of relief to people struggling with anxiety disorders, but this relief is often only temporary and of course, there can also be side effects which can sometimes be severe. They serve to relieve symptoms but do not cure the underlying problems which are at the root of the anxiety disorder.
Some medications stop having a truly therapeutic effect after just a few months of regular use. One study recently published in JAMA Psychiatry revealed that in many cases, SSRI medications may be no more effective than a placebo for treating anxiety. Many people also find that withdrawal from common anxiety medications to be very difficult; going off of these medications may also lead to anxiety which is more severe than it was before beginning drug therapy.
It’s understandable that you have questions if you’re considering taking medication for anxiety – keep reading for answers to some of the more commonly asked questions.
Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Cause Additional Stress and Anxiety?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is an important component (many would say the most important) of any treatment plan for anxiety, but there is a common misconception that it can increase anxiety. This should never be the case. While it is a focused and sometimes intense form of treatment, a professional therapist should never intentionally cause you to experience additional stress or pressure you unduly. This form of therapy should be gently challenging, helping you to resolve the underlying issues in a step by step fashion. If you suspect that your therapist is making your condition worse, ask for a referral to a different therapist, don’t discontinue treatment.
Will Taking Medication for Anxiety Cure My Condition?
In a word, no. Medication is meant to be used in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy to treat social anxiety and other anxiety disorders. You may experience some relief from the symptoms of your disorder, but medication will not permanently rewire your brain. That can only be accomplished by learning how to think differently about the world and to follow through by acting on these new thought patterns. Medication can help you get started on this journey, but it can’t do all of the work for you.
Can You Desensitize Yourself to Anxiety?
Some people may tell you that you can overcome your anxiety by forcing yourself to experience situations which cause you anxiety. While this approach may sometimes be effective for phobias, it’s not a good idea if you’re suffering from an anxiety disorder. Whether on its own or combined with SSRI drugs or other medication for anxiety, putting yourself in these situations is far more likely to trigger an episode of acute anxiety – and this feeling of failure will only increase your general anxiety level.
How Will I Overcome My Anxiety If Desensitization Doesn’t Work?
Actually, it’s not that you can’t desensitize yourself to anxiety, it’s just that putting yourself in situations which are likely to trigger intense anxiety isn’t a good idea. There’s no need to jump into the deep end. Take the same approach to real life situations as you would in cognitive behavioral therapy – step by step, making slow, gradual progress.
What Medication for Anxiety Is Best for Me?
There is no single right answer to this question. Some people do better with a benzodiazepine drug like Valium, while others find a SSRI to be more effective, at least in the short term. The bottom line is that this is a decision which has to be made in consultation with your physician, psychiatrist and/or therapist. You need to discuss your options, including the risk of side effects associated with any medication you may be considering. Finally, remember that medication is only a short term solution which is meant to be used in conjunction with talk therapy – not as a cure in its own right. With the help of a skilled therapist and medication, you can overcome your anxiety disorder and live your life again.