Let’s look at the range of medication available for anxiety symptoms. But before we do that, we should remind ourselves that taking medication for anxiety just treats the symptoms temporarily and does not effect the cause or provide any kind of long term solution (unless of course you take the medication long term).
Plenty of people do find the current anti-anxiety medication effective. Doctors normally turn to SSRI’s to fight anxiety. The have both pros and cons. In their favour they tend to work reasonably well with most patients managing to cope with their symptoms much better.
On the downside the side-effect profile is rather bad. Many people suffer from an increase in symptoms in the first instance and also nightmares, sweating, mood swings and lethargy or fatigue. And long-term there is the issue of weight gain, which can also be a big problem.
There are also benzodiazepine tranquillizers such as Xanax and Valium. These are very effective short-term remedies but they may leave you too “stoned” to function properly. Worse still, if you take them long then addiction and habit formation is a big problem. Read this post on rebound anxiety for more.
There are other drugs like Buspirone which promised much and takes the centre ground between SSRI’s and benzodiazepine tranquillisers. In reality it is not much better than the others but might be worth a try if you really want long-term medication but can’t take the SSRI’s.
It is much better to find other ways to tackle anxiety though, as ultimately medication doesn’t achieve lasting change alone.
I wanted to create a list of the common anxiety myths that I am asked about again and again.
There is too much bad information out there, often given out by people who don’t know much or who have a vested interest in pushing their own theory or therapy.
Please add your own myths or questions using the comments section below!
1. Anxiety is caused by childhood trauma.
This theory is loved by psychologists but there is no evidence whatsoever that it is true. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can cause anxiety, amongst many other symptoms, but it has a specific cause, like a war or a car crash.
2. Anxiety is incurable
Lots of anxiety sufferers believe that they are incurable however that is not the case. Lots of people get over anxiety every day and lead normal lives. What people forget is that anxiety is a natural emotion, so when you get over it you don’t never feel anxious again. You just feel anxious when it is more appropriate and to a more manageable degree.
3. Drugs cure anxiety
The normal anti-anxiety drugs such as SSRI’s and Benzodiazepines (and indeed the illegal ones) do not cure anxiety. They treat the symptoms but not the problem and many people (arguably a large majority) in the end feel that the side-effects are not worth the benefits. They are nearly all habit forming and if you can do without them that is a bonus.
4. Anxiety is caused by negative thinking
CBT revolves around the idea that anxiety and panic starts with a negative thought. They say that sometimes it is so fast you miss it. I say you miss it because often it doesn’t happen. The CBT theory is unproven and many people think that negative thinking is the result of anxiety and not the cause. CBT can be great for anxiety, but it doesn’t identify the cause. Identifying the cause is not always essential to getting over anxiety, as sometimes the cause disappeared long ago and only the habit is left.
5. Hypnotic regression can cure anxiety
Regression based therapies such as hypnoanalysis are a waste of time and money. They are expensive and they don’t work. And in my experience the “therapists” are nasty characters who are out for a quick buck and don’t care that they really hurt people in the process. Please don’t get sucked in by the hype and marketing!
If you can think of any more myths please add them below in the comments section 🙂
Here is the Anxiety2calm.com top ten on how to get over anxiety. Let me count you down!
10. Learn to relax. Relaxation is important for anxiety sufferers. You should do ten to twenty minutes of relaxation everyday.
9. Take regular exercise. It’s a fact! Exercising regularly, and getting out of breath, raises your serotonin levels. It is a great stress-buster.
8. Cut out chocolate, coffee and any other caffeine in your diet. It really can have an effect on anxiety and you will quickly get used to doing without. If you have a sweet tooth and are a chocoholic then it’s OK to substitute with other sweet snacks that don’t have caffeine (although it’s better to eat more healthily – see #7)
7. Keep your blood sugar levels stable. Many people get anxiety, or at least worse anxiety symptoms, when their blood sugar levels are low. Eat complex carbohydrates and protein, and avoid sugar and processed foods (including refined wheat products) to keep your blood sugar and mood stable.
6. Use soothing herbs like Valerian, Passiflora and Chamomile. Drink them as tea or buy a tincture. They really do work!
4. Write down your thoughts. Doing “Morning Pages” where you just let your thoughts flow onto the paper first thing in the morning (or whenever) is very cathartic and therapeutic. It helps with sleep, motivation and relaxation.
3. Think about getting more tryptophan in your diet. It is the building block of serotonin and being deficient can cause anxiety.
2. Learn the techniques of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). They are useful to get you through anxiety symptoms and help with negative thought patterns.
1. Practise Mindfulness Meditation. It is a fantastic long term solution to anxiety. It’s best to buy a book or a CD, or go on a course. Like all the best things, it takes dedication.
If you think I have missed something please add it below as a comment!
Anxiety can cause distorted vision and tricks of the mind. It doesn’t mean you are going mad or losing the plot. Common visual disturbances are:
Thinking you saw something that wasn’t there
Things being hyper-real or surreal
Colours being very vivid and strong
Things appearing as if in a dream
Strange swirly patterns and flashing lights
Why do these strange visual symptoms happen? The fight or flight response brings about some very real physical, physiological changes in our bodies. I hearts beat faster, we take in more oxygen and we are on alert.
The amount of blood pumping through our veins increases and this can put a bit of extra pressure on the brain and nervous system. In fact most of the vision problems experienced during anxiety are identical to the kind of vision experienced while doing heavy exercise.
It is common to mistake visual symptoms of anxiety for a sign or something much more sinister. Often people think they might be having a stroke or that a brain tumour is developing.
Of course strokes and brain tumours are thankfully very rare, you should always discuss new and unusual symptoms with a doctor. You will often feel much better when nasty sounding illnesses have been ruled out. Worrying about your health just makes anxiety worse.
In actual fact, anxiety attacks very rarely make people vomit. The idea of anxiety, the reason that is has evolved as part of human nature, is to keep us safe. It is unpleasant but not in itself dangerous.
Why do we feel nauseous when we are anxious? Basically, our bodies are preparing for defence and that means getting oxygen and energy to where it is needed, such as our muscles. It also means diverting resources away from less important tasks such as digestion and that is why both nausea and Diarrhoea can be a problem.
The best thing to do is to try to calm yourself down by relaxing the upper-body as much as possible and breathing slowly and gently down into the abdomen.
There are a few gentle remedies for nausea that are worth a try:
Bach’s Rescue Remedy
If nausea is a big problem for you or you are prone to vomiting, the doctor might prescribe a drug like prochloperazine (Stemitil) which is an anti-emetic. All of the general anti-anxiety techniques on this site should help diminish and finally eliminate anxiety and its associated nausea.
Anxiety attacks can not kill you yet a fear of dying is one of the most common worries anxiety sufferers report.
Anxiety is part of the body’s powerful fight or flight response and as such has evolved to keep you alive, not harm you. It is a warning signal and is as unpleasant as possible without harming you.
The fact is, you won’t die from anxiety. Even though your heart is beating faster and your breathing is rapid and laboured, your body is not in any danger from the anxiety. In fact, only those people with very weak and compromised organs (such as those with a history of heart disease) should be mildly concerned. But even in those cases if your symptoms are well-managed it shouldn’t be a problem.
The main challenge is to stop the fear of dying from interfering in your life. And the best way to challenge these intrusive thoughts is by writing them down and arguing them out.
You know, deep inside, that you won’t die. So write down all your fears and then put forward some opposing arguments. (This post about self-help for anxiety disorders might be useful) In no time you will start to see your fear of dying for what it really is: a myth.
Anxiety symptoms to do with breathing can be some of the most frightening that we have to deal with.
Breathing is the vital bodily function we are most aware of. We can have terrible problems with our heart and other organs and not know about it for years, but the second breathing becomes difficult we feel anxiety and maybe even panic, because we know that without air we won’t survive for long.
But our fear is misguided. The breathing problems caused by anxiety are not real physical problems, they are just our throat becoming slightly congested due to the extra blood flowing through the veins in our necks (read anxiety symptoms: throat for more details).
Often we feel these symptoms to do with breathing when we have anxiety:
Feel like we can’t swallow
Feel we can’t breath in or breath out
Feel we can’t get a full breath
Feel we can’t control our breathing
Feel like our breathing is too fast and is getting out of control.
If we learn to relax our breathing and breath slowly and gently from the abdomen, then our symptoms will subside. Good breathing is not just for anxiety attacks, it is for life and should be practised every day.
Hyperventilation is not just a symptom of anxiety, it is also a cause. If you can improve your breathing habits, your default breathing pattern, then anxiety can be banished for good.
The throat is an area of the body where symptoms of anxiety are often felt. There are two kinds of symptoms that particularly effect the throat: difficulty breathing and difficulty swallowing.
Having difficulty breathing when we are suffering from anxiety is common, but the description is inaccurate. Actually, we are managing to get plenty of air in to our bodies: too much. Please read this post on Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome and Anxiety.
This feeling of resistance to breathing is probably due to the blood pumping through the veins in our necks, making our windpipes ever so slightly narrower. It is not even close to being dangerous and if you make an effort to relax your upper body it will pass. Also this post is dedicated to Anxiety Symptoms: Breathing.
The same enlargement of the throat leads us to feeling that we can’t swallow, and eating and drinking when anxious can be hard. Again though, this feels bad but is completely harmless.
The best thing to do to combat all of the symptoms of anxiety that you feel in your throat is to practice relaxing your upper body, including your jaw and your chest.
Tingling is just one of many symptoms of anxiety. When we feel anxious and our bodies go into fight or flight mode, oxygen and energy is diverted to our muscles and adrenalin rushes through our system. One side effect of this is that we can feel a tingling sensation, which can be anywhere but is often in hand, feet or legs.
Like all symptoms of anxiety, tingling is harmless and will pass with the anxiety. Worrying about it just makes the problem worse as you should be trying to focus on your breathing and relaxing. This will make the tingling stop.
Doing some physical activity like walking might also help to loosen up the muscles and relax you, ending the bout of anxiety. You can also sometimes feel anxiety in your throat. This is all part of the same fight or flight reaction and not to be feared.
Vestibular disorders can cause anxiety. Some vestibular disorders can be so subtle that you might not realize that you are suffering from some kind of dizziness or vertigo and assume your anxiety has a psychological cause (read Anxiety and Dizziness for more information).
Take the case of someone who feels anxious and “strange” in a supermarket. A psychologist might tell them that they crave control and feel trapped in a supermarket and this causes anxiety. A cognitive behavior therapist might suggest that they tackle the negative thoughts they have around supermarkets. But they might be missing the fact that supermarkets, with their long isles, tiled floor and strip lighting are prone to exaggerating small vestibular weaknesses and making people feel slightly odd or slightly dizzy and detached.
Lots of anti anxiety medication also works as vestibular depressants, which numb the message from your ear to your brain and stops vertigo, dizziness and anxiety.
The best ways to tackle vestibular anxiety are:
Vestibular Rehabilitation – a series of physiotherapy exercises that help your brain correctly interpret the signal from your ears. Takes time and commitment!
Vestibular Suppressants – drugs which control dizziness and may also control anxiety. Only treats the symptoms and does not provide a solution.
Ginkgo Biloba – may work by increasing the blood supply to the brain and some people swear by it for dizziness and vertigo.