A reader’s experience of Xanax

An Anxiety 2 Calm reader sent me this personal experience of what it’s like to use Xanax.

“I have been battling agoraphobia for several months now, and after 
doing all the exercise, CBT, dietary changes etc.. they helped, but I 
was still stuck and scared to death of panic.  I recently started 
using xanax – just a nibble of the .50 mg pill calms me down into 
feeling normal.  It gives my body a chance to recover a little 
instead of the constant waves of anxiety that have kept me from 
living my life.  I plan to use Xanax to help me through exposure 
therapy – I don’t take it on a regular basis – just as needed.
I’m using it as a tool with CBT and supplements/diet/exercise.  It’s 
not an end in and of itself.”

I published this here both to encourage people by showing them that they can retake hold of their lives and because it demonstrates what I believe is a very healthy attitude to drugs like Xanax, Valium and also anti-depressants. They are not a cure, they are an aid. They are also a highly effective tool.

As drugs like Xanax are used sparingly the sufferer will quite probably find that the mere knowledge that they are available is calming in itself. Eventually they may well find they never take them any more.

So, under your doctor’s supervision, do take advantage of these drugs, but use them as sparingly as you can. I would recommend that you don’t purchase them from online pharmacies as then you do not get your doctor’s wisdom, and when fighting anxiety you should talk things through with your doctor. Also, prescriptions are often cheaper!

Being Happier

We all want more. Perhaps that is due to modern societies pressure, or perhaps it has always been this way. More importantly this constant desire and striving for more is both a cause of anxiety and a symptom of the deep insecurity which is often behind anxiety and panic.

Often, we strive for what we want and then realise that of course we are not happy when get it. And then we want more.

True happiness (and with it an inner contentment that can only help dramatically lower anxiety levels) is a hard emotion to quantify, isolate or explain. We can be sure about one thing. We should allow ourselves to be grateful with what we have. The more gratitude you can have for the situation your life is in right now, the happier you will be and the happier you will get.

It can be hard to be happy, especially when you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, panic disorder or severe stress. But if you search hard enough, there is happiness and gratitude to be found in all situations. Maybe you can just be happy for your physical health, or for having nice friends. It doesn’t really matter where you start, just as long as you start to be grateful for what you have.

This is one of those lifestyle changes which effects anxiety indirectly but very profoundly. Don’t underestimate the importance of elevated mood. Happier does equal calmer.

Motivation to over come anxiety

Making changes at a subconscious level is one key to overcoming anxiety, panic attacks and phobias. One way to do this is to think about what you actually think you can achieve. There is little point in trying to achieve something that you don’t think is possible. If you try to do that you are likely to tackle anxiety causing situations with an attitude which is self-sabotaging.

It’s important to believe in success and the easiest way to believe in it is to see it. I would suggest that you ignore the process and concentrate on the end result. For example, don’t think too much about a process of graded exposure, although you may well go through it, instead see yourself doing the things you want to do and enjoying them. Actually go inside the body of the future you and feel how it feels to do them.

If you find this uncomfortable start to question yourself. If it feels wrong to enjoy flying without anxiety then start to make a note of what exactly you feel. This can provide important clues when tackling the very heart of your fears. You may well feel that you don’t deserve it, or that you are under physical danger. You may discover a slight social phobia you didn’t realise you had. Whatever you find, give it your attention, meditate about it, write about it. You may well find that you can start to erode your anxiety from the inside.

By doing this you will increase your motivation to beat what ever devils you struggle with, and you may well learn something about yourself along the way.

Buteyko Shallow Breathing for Anxiety and Panic

The Buteyko method was developed by a Russian of the same name primarily for lung disorders. But retraining your manner of breathing can have a major effect on your anxiety and panic attack levels. Many people with Panic Disorder (with or without agoraphobia) or
Generalized Anxiety Disorder have very bad breathing habits, which can be changed surprisingly quickly. You should always consult your doctor and any therapists you are seeing before starting a new treatment. What follows is for information only.

The Buteyko method of breathing is not particularly hard, although the courses (which tend to be designed for Asthma sufferers rather than Anxiety or Panic Attack sufferers) are expensive and long winded. There are several books available on the subject, several of which are worth reading. They are:

The Breathology Programme Incorporating Buteyko Techniques

Close Your Mouth: Buteyko Clinic Handbook for Perfect Health

Breathing Free: The 5-day Breathing Programme That Can Change Your Life, By Teresa Hale

The basics of the Buteyko method I will tell you here. The idea is that after following the technique fort a few weeks you will notice a positive change in your stress level, energy level and the number of panic attacks or anxiety episodes you have.

The first step involves what is called the “Control Pause”. Take a couple of normal breaths, then, at the end of an outbreath (i.e. when your lungs are empty) pinch your nose and close your mouth, and time how many seconds you can wait before you feel you need to take another breath. Do NOT push yourself. You should breath again when you first feel you WANT to, not when you feel you HAVE TO or when you feel your legs going weak!

Step two. After you have done this take shallow breaths for five minutes. Breath only through your nose and try and keep your breaths so shallow you can not hear them. Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. If it doesn’t feel good then stop. If you feel faint, stop.

Step three. After five minutes go back to step one and take the “Control Pause” test again.

Then repeat steps one-three four times. Try to do this routine (four repetitions) three times a day for a week or so.

The aim is to be able to do a “Control Pause” which lasts sixty seconds. Remember, a Control Pause should not be uncomfortable. The aim is to get to sixty seconds without it feeling uncomfortable.

Hopefully this will have a very positive effect on your sleep, anxiety, panic and energy levels.

Anxiety and Panic – Correct Breathing

Anxiety and panic attack sufferers always seem to be given the same advice when it comes to breathing: take long deep breaths from the diaphragm. But does this actually work?

Well, in times of high anxiety or panic anything which slows down the rate of breathing is bound to be beneficial. That said, therapists and “gurus” often have a lot to say about retraining your breathing. It is stated that those who suffer from panic attacks and anxiety often over-breath and take shallow breaths from the chest.

In fact, very few people take slow, deep diaphragmatic breaths. When relaxed, people tend to breath very lightly. It may well be true that anxiety and panic attack sufferers over-breath, but this is probably doe to taking too many breaths as opposed to not breathing deeply enough.
The Russian researcher Dr. K Buteyko pioneered a method of shallow breathing which is much more natural than the deep breathing exercises so often prescribed. These are now used with great success by those who have Asthma and other pulmonary conditions.

A similar approach can do wonders for anxiety and panic as well, and also aids sleep, concentration and mood.

You might also be interested in the Buteyko breathing method, which uses shallow breathing to rebalance oxygen and CO2 levels in your body.

The idea is fairly simple. Breath less. Sit down in a quite place, bring your attention to your breathing. Can you hear it? You shouldn’t be able to! Just concentrate on lessening the amount of air you take in. Make your breaths slower and shallower. Don’t try and do anything too radical, just practice lessening your breath everyday for a few weeks. Gradually it will become natural.

If this works for you you can expect more calmness, less panic and physical anxiety, better mood, more energy and better sleep!

You might also be interested in the Buteyko breathing method.

Existential Anxiety

Existential Anxiety

Have you ever felt a strange kind of unreal anxiety that just made you think how weird life was? Have you ever felt that you were part of some gigantic board game? Have you ever gone dizzy wondering what was there before the universe was created in the big bang or made by god?

To question the above is quite normal, but to worry about it, or have it bring on negative physical reactions, is not. Symptoms of this existential anxiety can include (but are not limited to) dizziness, spacyness, nausea, panic, hyperventilation, vertigo and depression.

What can be done about existential anxiety?

The best therapy seems to be to accept it, and and keep saying to yourself “This is only existential anxiety and it can’t do anything to me.” Also I have found Mindfulness Meditation to be particularly good when it comes to simply letting anxious thoughts be there.

Also, read this.

Effexor XR – A Personal Experience

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is often treated with Effexor XR, which is also commonly prescribed for depression and social anxiety. Also called Venlafaxine HCl, Effexor XR is thought work on two neurotransmitters (as opposed to the more modern SSRIs which only work on one). Both Serotonin and Norepinephrine levels should be stabilised by this drug, thus improving mood and dampening anxiety.

Personal experiences:

As with most anti depressant medication, there tends to be some side effects when you first start taking the drug. I don’t list the side effects because I think that people tend to manifest them, especially those people who suffer from anxiety and depression, as they are prone to negative thought patterns. Certainly night sweats and muscle trembling have been a problem.

Does it work?

Anti depressants are statistically proven to work. That said, the difference in efficacy between placebos and most anti-depressants in peer-reviewed research is surprisingly small which has lead some experts to suggest that anti-depressants are only suitable for a much smaller number of cases than they are currently used for.

Certainly Effexor XR seems to reduce levels of anxiety and obsessive worry. Background anxiety levels dropped and desensitization became much easier.


Before going on an anti-depressant it is important to consider coming off them, even though that might be the last thing on your mind when you are in the middle of an anxiety/depression crisis. It is important to have a frank and open discussion with your psychologist or doctor, or whoever prescribes this medication. NEVER self prescribe using Online Pharmacies which don’t require a face to face consultation with a doctor.

Effexor XR has an especially short half, less than six hours for some one with normal metabolism. This does mean that a reduction in dose, a missed dose, or cold turkey withdrawal can lead to sudden and severe side effects. Again it’s not useful to list all the possible symptoms for fear of self-fulfilling prophecies. The key to the easiest withdrawal is to talk to a doctor about tapering the dose and using other strategies which can include a short term dose of a longer half life anti-depressant.

After Paxil, Effexor XR seems to be the hardest anti-depressant to come off. So do your research!