As I am getting ready to write this, I am reminiscing about how many different medications I have tried/been on…
First, I think it is important to discuss what anxiety is, and the different types of medications that are usually prescribed for anxiety conditions. (I for one like to know what anxiety is in my brain/body, what is happening and what these medications are intended for).
Anxiety in its purest form is a chemical imbalance. What causes this imbalance can be stress, genetics, upbringing, trauma, the list goes on. Over time, the reason people’s anxiety generally gets worse is chemical build ups in our bodies from overactive adrenal glands. Primarily, excessive release of cortisol. Cortisol is our ‘fight or flight’ hormone, which can be very useful in times of danger, but in everyday life, excess cortisol can be quite difficult to manage, even crippling. What happens in our bodies when we have too much cortisol is we become over-sensitized, from these frequent chemical releases, and our anxiety is more easily triggered by everyday stressors. Basically our fight or flight mechanism is a little over-active from anxiety and needs to be corrected. This is a very primitive description, but you get the point.
So most doctors prescribe two types of medications. Long lasting, and short acting. Long lasting would be an anti-depressant, and short acting would be a benzodiazepine.
The majority of Anti-depressants come in two forms:
SSRI‘s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor)
SNRI‘s (serotonin and norepinephrine inhibitor).
Some examples of SSRI’s are prozac, paxil, zoloft, celexa, and lexapro.
Some examples of SNRI’s are cymbalta, effexor, fetzima, and pristiq. (SNRI’s are the ‘newer’ generation of antidepressants). Oh and Btw – I have been on most of these at one time or another and found 5mg of celexa daily to work the best for me).
WTF is reuptake/inhibitor?
“It’s the process in which neurotransmitters are naturally reabsorbed back into nerve cells in the brain after they are released to send messages between nerve cells. A reuptake inhibitor prevents this from happening. Instead of getting reabsorbed, the neurotransmitter stays — at least temporarily — in the gap between the nerves, called the synapse.
What’s the benefit? The basic theory goes like this: keeping levels of the neurotransmitters higher could improve communication between the nerve cells — and that can strengthen circuits in the brain which regulate mood.”(taken from webMD.com)
The biggest difference between the two is: SSRIs affect the transportation and receptors of serotonin and SNRIs block the uptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, (norepinephrines general function is to mobilize the body for action, similar to cortisol). Serotonin is considered a feel good, happy chemical, so if it gets too high or too low, we need to restore it.
Medications have come under fire in recent years as we as a whole try to live more naturally. But sometimes I think medications are imperative. Especially if we have been living with well-above normal cortisol levels for a long time. It can be hard for our minds/bodies to regulate and release those chemicals.
Benzodiazepines are medications such as xanax, klonopin, or valium. These are fast acting and short lasting drugs (usually a few hours). They are usually taken on an as needed basis, say during a panic attack. Doctors warn not to take these medications long term as we can build a tolerance to them, or they can become addictive, so be careful. I personally, carry a prescription of xanax, 0.25mg dose and have for over 10yrs. I only take them during an extremely anxious time (maybe a couple times a year) and have not built any tolerance to them.
Anxiety can be dealt with, but it will take discipline, faith, action, and hard work. I have countless hours, weeks, and years into my journey but it is worth it. No one should suffer forever, I know how despairing it can feel, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
So if you are thinking of taking medications even short term, it may be worth a shot. I know I personally, absolutely despise taking anything because it makes me feel like a total failure at life, but medication is not for failure, it is a small nudge to help us get our feet back on the ground. I did not fail, for I am still here. I never quit.
Another thing, I can’t recommend for everyone but worked for me, is when a Doctor wants to put me on a medication, I would start at half the recommended dose. A lot of doctors are all too quick to prescribe lots of medications in high doses.
Also be prepared that medications are not a fix-all. You will need to dig deep and do some therapy, or behavioral work to change your own negative self talk. However, medications can allow the breathing room for you to finally be able get through whatever is causing your anxiety. Remember, nothing ever lasts forever and change is 100% possible. ❤