When To Consider Medication for Anxiety
Anxiety feels terrible. Anti-anxiety medications, also called anxiolytics, can deliver fast relief. So why doesn’t everybody with anxiety take them?
The short answer, from a treatment perspective: These drugs can do much more to your body than simply turn down the dial on anxious feelings. Anxiolytics have a well-known risk for addiction and potentially harmful side effects – especially as you age.
The short answer, from a cultural perspective: Anxiety is common – and commonly treated – in celebrity and youth culture. However, the fact remains that the older population often doesn’t recognize or discuss their symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
What all patients should know is that many people struggle with anxiety disorders and that life can be easier when they’re treated under a doctor’s supervision. That may mean you need to consider anti-anxiety medications.
Your MDVIP-affiliated doctor is in the best position to advise you on whether – and when – to take medication for anxiety. Your doc knows about all the medications you take, your health history, your personal goals, and what’s going on in your life. So, if you’re wondering whether anti-anxiety medication is right for you, start there.
In the meantime, we’ll share with you some of the facts that go into the decision-making process.
If your anxiety occurs along with symptoms of depression, a common co-occurrence…
Antidepressants are usually prescribed here. Despite the term “antidepressant,” these drugs effectively reduce anxiety. They tend to be safe and well tolerated, regardless of your age or what medications you take.
Many adults will also be prescribed a benzodiazepine – a short-acting anxiolytic, such as alprazolam (Xanax). These drugs can help tamp down anxiety episodes until the antidepressant takes full effect in a few weeks. Benzodiazepines are rarely prescribed in the elderly, however; risks to an older population include falls, hip fractures, and cognitive impairment.
If you’re considered “older” or “elderly” and struggle with anxiety…
You may get a prescription for an anti-depressant, especially if you have generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or panic disorder. However, your doctor will first investigate whether your anxiety is related to another condition, such as poorly controlled type 2 diabetes or Parkinson’s disease. Managing your underlying conditions may eliminate the need for anxiety-reducing medications.
If you don’t want to take a pill to manage your mood…
Good news: Therapy can be just as effective as medication, and sometimes more effective than medication.
If you haven’t been to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker before, don’t expect the experience you see in caricatures: patient on the couch, doctor in a chair taking notes. Think of therapy as continuing education, and you get to choose the course that most interests you. For example, you may choose to learn:
- Ways to change the thinking patterns that contribute to your fears and over-reactions.
- How to become desensitized to the situations that trigger anxious feelings
- Relaxation techniques, such as “belly breathing,” a type of deep breathing where you focus on your diaphragm expanding as you fill your lungs with air.
If you feel you don’t have a problem – but your loved ones suggest otherwise.
You don’t want to see a doctor about your alleged anxiety problem – much less take a pill for it or talk to a therapist about your emotions. At the same time, you want your loved ones to stop bringing it up.
Believe it or not, there’s a compromise. Certain lifestyle choices can bring calm to nerve-wracking situations and “high energy” personalities (which other people may read as anxious personalities).
Consider meditation: If you sit calmly for a certain amount of time every day, and focus only on the present moment and deep breathing, you can reduce stress, mood swings, and agitation. Those benefits may appeal to your loved ones, but there are medical reasons that may appeal more to you. Meditation can improve your physical health by improving – or helping you better manage – a range of medical problems, including:
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Sleep problems
If you don’t want to consider medication or therapy, you should still address the “anxiety situation” with your MDVIP doctor, who can give you more tips on lifestyle changes (including foods to eat and avoid) that can improve your overall health while bringing greater calm to your life.