Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Anxiety

Anxiety IBS are often linked. I added a section on Anxiety and IBS to Anxiety2Calm as it is generally accepted that stress plays a major role in the contraction and treatment of IBS. Anxiety could almost be considered one of the classic IBS symptoms. I have also been astounded by how many readers of Anxiety2Calm have written to me and told me how IBS type symptoms effect their anxiety and mood.

If you have any symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome you must seek medical advice! It is important to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. If you have IBS your doctor should be able to help and advise you.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a hard thing to define. It is not an illness in itself but more a set of symptoms which, when suffered for a prolonged period, are labeled IBS. The symptoms may include some, but by no means all, of the following:

  • Pain and discomfort in the abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhoea/urgency
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion/heartburn
  • Tiredness
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Phobias

This is NOT an exhaustive list of possible symptoms.

It is a little bit controversial to include the last 4 items on the list, but this is a web site primarily about anxiety, panic, stress and depression and I believe that in some cases people’s psychological symptoms are purely a result of their irritable bowel syndrome. I should stress that this is probably the case for some people, but definitely not all or even a large minority.

More commonly IBS is likely to be part of a complex web of symptoms that all fuel each other. There has always been something of the chicken and the egg about anxiety, stress, depression and IBS.

IBS affects different people in different ways, and of course has many causes not all of which are known. But if your own symptoms are stress or anxiety related, then learning to calm your mind will likely help.

Related articles:

 

What is Social Phobia and do I have it?

Most people feel shy at some point in time, and usually it is an emotion that we find slightly endearing in others. If we never felt any shyness we would become brash and appear to be arrogant, overconfident, and superior.
In Social Phobia people become deeply anxious about the natural symptoms of shyness and worry and about how others view them. They become convinced they will be highly embarrassed and humiliated in any social or performance situation. One important part of the diagnosis of social phobia is that the anxiety associated with these social and performance situations, and this fear of humiliation leads to avoidance of such situations.

Social phobia can be a general fear of all or some social situations but can also be more specific. A fear of public speaking is probably the world’s most common phobia, leading in extreme cases to people refusing promotions and even changing professions.

Another aspect of the phobia involves the sufferer being unable to eat in public, fearing that they will choke on, splutter, spill or spit out their food, or that they will be unable to swallow it. Other people fear working or writing in public, being watched or using public toilets.

How common is social phobia?

Very common. Those diagnosed with social phobia, i.e. those that have a phobia which interrupts their social life, could number as many as 1 in 20 in the western world.

Do I have Social Phobia?

Many people are a little bit shy or unconfident amongst new people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For some people, however, shyness and worry can take over and become very debilitating. This is social phobia.

They find themselves worrying that they are the centre of attention, that everyone is staring at them and watching what they are doing. They may find it difficult or impossible to talk to colleagues or shop assistants, to go to busy places like swimming pools and restaurants, and to make friends and lasting relationships. Confronting people such as an unfair boss or belligerent traffic warden may be out of the question.

For some these feelings of social phobia culminate in a panic attack, for others there is just a lasting sense of uneasiness. In extreme cases it can lead to depression but doesn’t always by any means. If you think this could be you and that you have social phobia you should speak to your doctor and consider tackling it using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. There will probably be a local support group and there are also some books worth reading.

What’s the prognosis?

Very good. There are many treatments available and a referral from your doctor is probably the best place to start. Your treatment is likely to include some of: CBT, assertiveness training, relaxation techniques and may or may not include a drug therapy depending on severity and your doctor or therapists position in the great drugs debate.

Alternative Therapies?

Therapies  such as TFT/EFT Tapping and Hypnosis claim to cure Social Phobia very quickly. Is it true? Well, in some cases it has been known to work, but this is likely down to the placebo effect. If you have the financial resources and an open mind you might want to try them.

Fear of Flying and how to treat it

The fear of flying deserves a special mention as all too often it’s the anxiety sufferer’s ultimate nightmare. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, many potentially phobic situations are encountered at once: heights, claustrophobia, speed, motion, and being out of control to name but a few. Consider also the airport: armed police, security checks, large shopping mall type areas, and a sense of being imprisoned when you’ve passed through customs.

Those that have a fear of flying fall into several types. Firstly the people who have a simple phobia of flying. They are not scared of anything else, or at least not to a phobic extent, but are petrified of flying to the point that they won’t do it. In many cases this is due to a lack of understanding as to how the plane can take off and stay airborne, and how it can be so incredibly safe. When the misunderstandings are cleared up this “phobia” (which is often really just an extreme fear) is often easy to overcome. One way of overcoming this is to do a Fear of Flying course. These can be expensive and often involves a short flight at the end. These can help you understand how flying works, why turbulence occurs, and how dangerous flying really is (Of course, it’s stupendously safe!). This knowledge can make your fears disappear, or become much more manageable.

Of course you don’t have to spend money on an expensive course. There are plenty of good books on the market and the potential for virtual reality, which may well be a big part of the future treatment of phobias.

The other types of fearful flier are not actually scared of flying. They are scared of anxiety and panic, and the idea of feeling those emotions at thirty-six thousand feet is the most terrifying thing imaginable. These anxious flyers too can be broken down into categories. There are those that can grin and bare it, but spend their whole holiday worrying about returning home. And there are those who come hell or high water will not fly, or even set foot on a plane.

For the first group whatever reduces their anxiety will reduce their fear of flying. For the second group it is a little trickier, they have to take a leap of faith, a first flight. In order to do this they need to gain enough confidence to take the plunge. This is their hardest struggle, although it is still quite possible to achieve success. Unless you come under group one and have a simple phobia, I suggest that regression therapy, under hypnosis or otherwise, is unlikely to be for you. It is highly unlikely that your panic response is caused by a traumatic incident or incidents from your youth. My advice would be to put aside the desire for a quick fix provided by someone else and prepare to beat this yourself.

What is Agoraphobia and is it treatable?

Agoraphobia is a label given to anxiety or panic disorders which hinder sufferers’ abilities to travel away from home or to specific places. In extreme cases the sufferer is housebound, unable even to visit their front garden. In other, more common cases, sufferers have a morbid fear of crowded shopping centres, or traveling alone to unfamiliar places. The label is not important, but if you or someone you know has problems getting out and about due to anxiety or panic attacks then read on.

There are three main criteria used for the diagnosis of agoraphobia.

  • Firstly, the sufferer experiences anxiety about being in a location which
    maybe difficult or embarrassing to escape from. Such places might well include crowded shopping malls or other places where help seems far away.
  • Secondly, the sufferer avoids these places (supermarkets, public transport etc) for fear of having and anxiety or panic attack and not being able to escape.
  • Thirdly, the symptoms can not be better explained by any other physical or psychological disorder, such as thyroid problems.

 

Often, the biggest fear of an agoraphobic is having a panic attack, and agoraphobia often goes hand in hand with panic disorder. Other situations which bring on agoraphobia or panic attacks are commonly: being away from home, standing in a queue at a supermarket, using public transport, driving on motorways or freeways, and visiting the cinema.

Some people who suffer from agoraphobia feel that they can only go to certain places if accompanied by a trusted friend or relative. This dependence on others can be an important part of the condition and should be a major focus of therapy.

Can you cure Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia can be very severe, leaving people housebound for years. But this is rare, and in any event agoraphobia, like all phobias, is treatable. People
have frequently gone from being largely housebound to travel the world. You
can recover, too.

Agoraphobia Treatment?

Agoraphobia is often treated by drug therapy, which usually involves a Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) such as Prozac or Celexa (or other, more modern anti-depressants). These drugs have been shown to have a strong anti-anxiety and anti-panic disorder effect.

Tranquilizers like Valium and Xanax may be prescribed for short term relief, however these are not normally suggested for long term as they are habit-forming and addictive.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is also used as a treatment of choice, sadly this
is not always available on health insurance in countries which don’t have national health services and is often vastly over-stretched where it is available. The best option for those that can afford it is to go to a private, well-certified,
practitioner.

In might be tempting to visit a psychoanalyst in the belief that you have deep routed and hidden fears. Agoraphobia, however, is unlikely to respond to psychotherapy or hypnoanalysis. I would recommend you save your money.

Am I Agoraphobic

Some people may have a specific phobia rather than agoraphobia if for instance the anxiety response and avoidance is related only to one situation, such as crowds or trains. Some other people feel anxious due to being around people as opposed to being in any particular situation. If that sounds like you then maybe you should investigate social phobia rather than agoraphobia.

How is agoraphobia treated? Firstly you should be aware that a complete recovery from agoraphobia is completely possible. While some people struggle with agoraphobia for many years it doesn’t have to be that way. So what’s the difference between those that have success and those that don’t? Simple, the successful ex-agoraphobics were committed and motivated and were prepared to turn detective and really hunt down a solution to their issues. The best place to start (having spoken to your doctor) is almost definitely with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
CBT allows you to get your thoughts into perspective, and when you can better understand and control your thoughts your body will relax more and more. Your therapist will also help you plan a framework to gently expose and desensitize yourself to the outside world. Often it is a good idea to try and change your relationship with your anxious or panicky feelings. In the past you have maybe been scared of them, gone to great lengths to avoid them. Many agoraphobics are most scared of anxiety and panic attacks themselves, so by removing some of the fear of the symptoms much of the problem can be solved. In reality anxiety and panic attacks are harmless and always subside. Many people manage to relax into them or float through them and find that the less they care about them the less they happen. It’s easy to say but the actual “doing” comes with practice surprisingly quickly. The seminal works of Dr Claire Weekes are a great place to start.

A word should be said about trying to find the root of your phobia. The professional community are divided. Many seem to think that the root cause is now irrelevant, that you probably dealt with that long ago and are now left with a learnt response which can be unlearned. Others believe that while that may be true in some cases it is not true in others. Often people recovering from anxiety have setbacks. These are natural, normally short, and nothing to lose sleep over. For some people though recovery is fraught with setbacks and this can be a sign that an underlying issue is still to be dealt with.
If the root cause can be dealt with fully then either your anxiety and phobia will lift, or the desensitization process will become a whole lot easier.

Phobias and how best to treat them

There is a big difference between a fear and a phobia. If something scares you but doesn’t interfere in your life then it is just a fear. A phobia causes an anxiety or panic response which interferes with your ability to do it and therefore impacts on your life. So if the anxiety is bad enough to stop you facing it or tackling it then it’s probably a phobia. People with fears might well benefit from the same treatment as people with phobias.

If, for example, someone was squeamish about the idea of a house spider crawling over their hand but spent a few moments in the presence of zoologist who explained to them how harmless a spider is and why it moves so fast, they could probably start to let go of their fears.

If they have a panic response to seeing a spider (arachnophobia) then the same information would probably be of some use to them in tackling the phobia but wouldn’t constitute a cure in itself. If the panic or anxiety they feel is enough to make them avoid places where they might encounter spiders then they have a phobia, and often are as adverse to the feelings of panic as they are to the spider itself.

“Are you scared of fear itself?”

That question is worth stressing. Phobic people are often phobic or petrified of the bodily physical symptoms of anxiety and panic themselves, i.e. they are scared that if they go into a lift they will panic. Obviously this thought is normally accompanied by other catastrophic thinking. What if the lift gets stuck? What if the lift plummets? What if there is a fire? What if we are stuck and no one knows we are here?

The person with a fear of spiders may think it will bite them or attack them. A person with a phobia may feel that they will lose control, go mad, pass-out, or even die if the spider comes near them.
In these cases it can be more important to deal with these feelings of anxiety and panic than anything to do with the object itself per se. When there has been a certain inoculation against the symptoms (ie the sufferer has learnt to control their flight or fight response and recognizes scary symptoms for the temporary, harmless and natural feelings that they are, and seeing that they lead neither to death nor passing out nor going mad) exposure to the feared object or situation can be much quicker and easier. For more information on this see the section on Clare Weekes.

Getting over phobias involves exposure! But before you do exposure you should consider ways of changing your faulty thinking, and modifying your behaviour by controlling your breathing and muscle tension.

What Medication is best for Phobias?

There are no medications that will simply make your phobia disappear overnight. That said, the use of the medications described above for anxiety and panic attacks can make challenging your phobia much easier, possibly to the extent where it just melts away. Certainly if a going in an elevator causes you to have panic attacks, using a benzodiazepine tranquiliser will quite possibly significantly help.

You should remember though that it might well not always be practical to take a tranquiliser each time you go in a lift. Therefore, medication should only be one aspect of your phobia treatment, it should be combined with a phobia therapy or treatment programme.

Likewise if you are on a SSRI which is helping with anxiety and/or panic attacks challenging phobias may well also be easier, as your overall anxiety levels will be lower.

Unless you have agoraphopbia I would suggest you try to tackle your phobia without SSRIs and use tranquilisers such as benzodiazepines (valium, xanax etc) sparingly. The ultimate aim is of course to respond to the stimulus in a normal healthy manner, without outside help. Using valium short term though can be helpful on your pathway to recovery.

The best therapy for Phobias

The best therapy for overcoming phobias seems to be CBT. Again and again it is shown by peer reviewed research to help phobics face their problem, control their symptoms, and eventually move on with complete normality. There are some good books that you can buy to teach yourself CBT, and depending on severity it may also be advisable to seek the help of an expert. Your doctor should be able to refer you to a well-qualified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.

CBT helps to modify your morbid or catastrophic thinking. Then, bit by bit, you gradually expose yourself to the object of your phobia. As this exposure unfolds you start to see that your old beliefs were misguided and very soon your phobia can be made to pass. CBT is not a magic and cure and does demand commitment from the sufferer. That said, the techniques which demand no commitment from the sufferer seldom work!

People can often be put off by the notion of exposure. They shouldn’t be. Gradual exposure to a situation after your faulty cognition has been challenged does not have to be nasty, and at the end of it there is a real sense that you have achieved something for yourself. Challenging a phobia through CBT in this way leads to increased self-esteem and confidence.

Here are some other phobia related pages.

What’s the difference between a fear and a phobia?

Do I have social Phobia?

What’s the best treatment for agoraphobia?

What medication is best for phobias?

What therapies are best for phobias?

What about my fear of flying?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a blanket term used to label a variety of symptoms which include: being in a near constant state of restlessness, being easily fatigued, having difficulty concentrating, being irritable, having muscle tension, and having disturbed sleep. Importantly, those who have GAD do not have panic attacks, phobias, or OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)

To be considered as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, these symptoms should have been present for sometime. This type of anxiety can vary in degrees of intensity and length.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a label which helps medical professionals classify symptoms and patients. It is not necessarily helpful to you other than to understand what they mean by it. Those with GAD often find that the constant worrying interrupts their personal, professional or social lives.

According to the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (by Edmund J Bourne) people who suffer from GAD tend to have five underlying basic fears:

  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of not being able to cope
  • Fear of death, disease and sickness
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of rejection and abandonment

Some situations can draw out these fears and magnify them, such as pressure
at work, a broken marriage, bereavement or a failure.

It’s important to become completely aware of all of your own symptoms
and to tackle them with the help of a doctor or
therapist. But as ever, self-treatment is often very important.

What about treatment?

The chances of successful treatment are good. Drugs and therapies can be used where appropriate and other alternative therapies and cures can be successful. Drug treatment might be unnecessary, and it is advisable to do online research before embarking on a course of anxiolytic medication. Unless your symptoms are incredibly severe, you are more likely to benefit from lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques, and some form of therapy.

What other information might be helpful?

Why not read the section on drugs and the section on CBT

Stress or Office Anxiety

Office Anxiety is a name that the media have given to a set of symptoms which basically amount to anxiety that is due to or exacerbated by work stress.

The symptoms tend to be:

  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Fidgeting
  • Excessive worry
  • Guilt at perceived under achievement
  • Hyperventilation
  • Panic attacks
  • Feelings of low self worth

Psychologists and Psychiatrists have christened some of these symptoms; ADT, Attention Deficit Trait where time management and scheduling become difficult or impossible, as fear rather than time manages a worker’s life.

Of course some of the above symptoms (or arguably all of them!) are quite normal in an office environment, so the introduction of labels is likely to bring out the hypochondriac in some people. Having these symptoms should not be cause for further worry, just some positive action! One expert argued that ADT is just a response to the hyperkinetic environment that today’s offices have become.

In the UK 6.5 million work days are lost to mental ill health induced by workplace stress.

Various factors have contributed to a recent upturn in work related stress.

  • The end of the 9-5 day with the Americanisation of UK work practices.
  • The introduction of new technologies that actually pile on pressure rather than save time.
  • Much less job security.
  • Dependents demand of consumer goods and expensive lifestyles.
  • The over-use of performance targets as a motivational tool.
  • The under-use of praise as a motivational tool.

What’s the outcome?

Well, in Japan, where Office Anxiety and ADT, is more advanced, there are over 1000 suicides a year which are put down to work pressures. That does not mean this is likely in the UK and USA as there are very different work practices in the west. It does, however, mean that there should be more action taken now, to curb this problem.

What can I do about Work Stress or ADT?

Here are some simple suggestions which could go a long way to alleviating your problems.

  • Talk to someone at work! Many good employers are wising up to stress and have programmes that can help.
  • Talk to your family or friends. Don’t suffer in silence. People that know you can often help and advise.
  • Talk to your doctor. If you are over stressed you may get signed off work.
  • Be realistic about your work goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if your manager doesn’t know that then they are a bad manager.
  • Stop those guilty thoughts. Spend some time reaffirming that your life is your own. Do not blindly give your life to your bosses and share holders.
  • Get in shape. Exercise reduces stress.
  • Leave the office earlier. Longer hours equal more stress.
  • Drink less caffeine. Enough said.
  • Join a Union! Yes, I know it’s considered old fashioned but workers need rights more than ever right now.

 

Depression

Depression and Anxiety often appear together (co-morbidity). For some people, depression is caused by anxiety, there mood is low because they are anxious and this stops them achieving their full potential. For more on the link between the two read Does Anxiety Cause Depression?

Some people are both anxious and depressed due to the same cause: low brain serotonin. Low serotonin, though, is not the only cause of depression, and getting a proper diagnosis and establishing the root of the problem can be hard. It is important to seek medical advice as to the best way to treat depression.

Some people can feel anxiety and depression as a result of Winter Blues (SAD). Certainly there are light boxes, colour-tinted glasses lenses and vitamin D supplements that are said to help some people lift their mood.

This article called How to be Happy takes a purely psychological and spiritual approach.

Also, this blog post on anxiety and depression might be of interest to you.

OCD

As the name suggests, OCD covers two things: obsessions and compulsions. It should be pointed out at that most people have some obsessive thoughts and some compulsive behaviours at times. They should only be a cause for concern when due to regularity or intensity they cause suffering to those who suffer from them or their friends and family.

Let’s take them one at a time: Obsessions:

Obsessions are disturbing thoughts that plague your mind. Common obsessions include fearing that you or a loved one is in danger from a faulty household appliance like a stove that leaks gas. An obsessive fear of dirt, germs and grime is also common. It is said that English football legend Paul Gasgoigne sometimes drove thirty miles or more back to his house on occasions, convinced he had left the door open. Another sufferer believed great misfortune would fall on him if sentences he read did not have a number of letters and punctuation marks in it that was divisible by three.

Compulsions:

Often compulsions are carried out in order to lessen the impact of, or reduce anxiety from obsessions. They normally take the form of repeated actions. In some cases they are directly linked to the compulsions (for example regularly checking that the door is locked, or that the oven has been switched off properly). Sometimes the compulsive behaviour is not seemingly linked to anything and takes on the form of a slightly strange religion, for example the compulsion to touch many different objects in order to ward off evil.
Common compulsions include:

  • Constant washing
  • Praying
  • Counting
  • Touching
  • Avoiding certain colours, textures, or materials
  • Performing rituals
  • …the list is potentially endless.

The film “As Good as it Gets” with Jack Nicholson is a light-hearted look into the world of OCD, which may be interesting for those who know a sufferer and find it hard to understand.

The prognosis

The prognosis is good and making a complete recovery and being free of obsessions and compulsions is definitely within your reach. The mainstream medical approach involves Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and sometimes drug therapy. For more info why not check out OCD Action.

Panic Attacks, Panic Disorder and drug treatment

A panic attack is a sudden and strong feeling of overwhelming fear and apprehension often including one or more of the following:

  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • temporary vertigo or dizziness
  • feeling of not being able to swallow
  • palpitation (noticeable or increased heartbeat)
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • feeling very hot or cold
  • being convinced that death or insanity is imminent
  • chest pains

Many people rush to the emergency room or casualty department after their first panic attack convinced they have had a heart attack or a stroke. If you think you have had, or are having a panic attack you should be given a thorough check-up by a medical professional to rule out a physical cause for your symptoms.

Common Misconceptions

Panic attacks themselves are completely harmless but there are two common misconceptions that are regularly repeated.
1) You might have a heart attack. Actually, a normal adult heart could sustain palpitations for much much longer than a panic attack can last. There is no evidence that a panic attack does any short or long term damage to the heart.

2) You might faint. While you may feel faint and slightly dizzy during a panic attack, it is highly unlikely that you will faint. The reason for this is simple. Fainting is caused generally by a loss of blood pressure, where as in a panic attack blood pressure tends to rise a bit.

Remember, panic attacks were designed by god(s)/nature to protect you. They feel so bad because they are trying to make you escape a perceived threat.

What disorders are associated with panic attacks?

In modern medical and psychiatric terms, people who suffer from panic attacks are usually put into one of two categories.

1) “Panic Disorder” is the term used for people who have panic attacks seemingly without cause, coming as it were out of the blue. People are diagnosed with panic disorder if they have had two or more panic attacks or if they have had more than a month of severe worry about suffering from another panic attack.

2) Phobia or Agoraphobia. If a panic attack is related to a specific situation then a simple phobia will be diagnosed. Often sufferers of Panic Disorder become afraid of having panic attacks away from home, and begin to avoid going out, going out alone, or going to some places. In these cases agoraphobia is diagnosed.

Remember: A good therapist will ignore labels and treat your personal symptoms as unique.

How common are they?

Very common, possibly as many as 10% of people have some of the above at sometime.

What is the prognosis, what are my chances of recovery?

Very good. Drug treatments and therapies have high success rates. And some alternative remedies can also be very helpful

Panic Disorder is a label given to a person who either frequently has panic attacks or who lives their life in fear of having panic attacks and is thus in some way disabled in their social or professional life. The fear of having a panic attack is important, because it is this fear, rather than the attacks themselves, that causes the major impact on life.

Panic attacks have evolved/were designed by god specifically to feel exceedingly nasty. The idea is that they give you the impetus to fight or flee. Panic Attacks are of course completely harmless despite being unpleasant. Panic Disorder is highly treatable. Clare Weekes seminal work Pass Through Panic is a good place to start. Also Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Medication for panic attacks may be helpful.

DSM IV describes panic disorder as: Recurrent unexpected Panic Attacks At least one of the attacks has been followed by 1 month (or more) of one (or more) of the following: Persistent concern about having additional attacks, worry about the implications of the attack or its consequences (e.g., losing control, having a heart attack, “going crazy”), and a significant change in behaviour related to the attacks.

So what’s the prognosis for a sufferer with Panic Disorder? What’s the chance of recovery? The news is good, 70-90% of people make a full recovery with mainstream treatments such as a combination of drugs and CBT. Some people see Panic Disorder as chronic and relapsing, in that you never get over it. This is not the case, if you deal with the cause and inoculate yourself against panic using Claire Weekes’ method it definitely can be conquered for ever!

More information here on Panic Disorder from another website.

Drug treatment for Panic Attacks

Drugs often prescribed for panic attacks include Benzodiazepines and Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors. (Commonly called SSRI’s).

Benzodiazepines are tranquilisers which work by increasing the efficiency of GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid), a neurotransmitter which calms down excitory responses causing inhibition and calmness. They can have side effects and can be addictive or habit forming. That said, if they are used correctly (as prescribed by your doctor) they are usually very safe. One major problem is that panic attack sufferers can build up a tolerance to them, so they are less effective. The major advantage of benzodiazepines for panic attacks is that they work fairly fast, and can therefore be taken on an as needed basis.

SSRI’s work by inhibiting the re-uptake of the neurotransmitter Serotonin. Increasing the levels of Serotonin leads to an improvement of mood and a lessening or even cessation of panic attacks. There are many kinds of SSRI’s and they don’t all work for everyone. Some people find the side effects are too much, others find they are not effective. Some other people find them very effective. The major drawbacks are that they take at least two weeks to become effective and must be taken every day. Also they should be withdrawn slowly at the end of treatment.

Remember that drugs treat symptoms and not causes, and while under drug therapy it is a good idea to try and treat the cause.