Are Medications a Good Treatment Option for Anxiety?
Being a psychologist, I’m a bit biased and believe that psychotherapy is the best approach to treating anxiety. However, I do believe that there is a place for medication in the treatment of anxiety and certainly don’t think badly of people who opt for medication and therapy, or a medication only approach to managing their anxiety. Regardless of how you approach managing your anxiety, there are important things to consider, which I’ll talk about below.
Medications won’t necessarily cure your anxiety, but they may reduce the symptoms which can help you take care of your day to day tasks. Sometimes medications may even help you get the most benefit from psychotherapy if your anxiety symptoms are so severe you can’t concentrate or remember what you talked about in therapy. It is important to know that if you are managing your anxiety with only medication (no psychotherapy) and you stop that medication then the symptoms will generally come back.
Medications for anxiety are most often prescribed by a primary care physician or psychiatrist (a medical doctor who specializes in mental health). Make sure you give your prescriber a full picture of what your anxiety symptoms are, how long the symptoms have been around, and other health symptoms you have. Not all anxiety medications are safe to take if you have certain health conditions or if you are on other medications.
There are three main classes of medications that are typically prescribed for anxiety: antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Some people experience negative side effects for a week or two after a new medication is started. If a side effect continues beyond a few weeks then you may want to talk to your prescriber about changing the administration time, dosage, or medication type.
It’s important to know that medications are only effective if they are taken regularly and as prescribed. Don’t try to be your own doctor…take the medication as prescribed and if something feels off then go back to your prescriber and let him/her make the adjustments. Also, if you decide to stop a medication make sure that you talk to the person who prescribed it so he/she can slowly take you off, otherwise you may have some pretty icky side effects.
Here are some things you should talk to your doctors about before starting a medication for anxiety:
- How well will the medicine work to improve your symptoms.
- Benefits and side effects of each medicine.
- Risk for a serious side effects based on your medical history.
- Will lifestyle changes be required (e.g., no alcohol)?
- Costs of each medicine.
- Other alternative therapies: psychotherapy, medicines, vitamins, and supplements you are taking and how these may affect your treatment.
- How the medication should be stopped. Some drugs can’t be stopped abruptly but must be tapered off slowly under a doctor’s supervision.
If you want to read a bit more about medications for anxiety this site has some good information: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/anxiety-medication.htm
If you’re not sure if medication, therapy, or both are a good fit for you, give me a call and we can talk about your specific situation and determine what treatment might be best for you. You can reach me at 539-777-1129 or through secure email at Dr.Leedy@legacycounselingservice.com. I look forward to hearing from you!