Medication for Stress, Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Medication for Stress, Anxiety and Panic Attacks
At the end of the day any fear does require you to face it. There is no way of getting around this fact. You can take lots of small steps but one day you will need to face you ultimate fear which will not seem as big as it does now. If your stressed, anxious or getting panicky over something at some stage you will have to face your worst fears.
I am not a huge fan of the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) when it comes to mental health. I believe they want to help but often the systems are not in place to help. If you see your doctor often there first step is to put you on medication.
If you feel you need it then there is no embarrassment or failure if you require short term help to go on medication. I went on medication over two different periods and it was helpful. It did lessen my symptoms and gave me support when I needed it most. However it seems our GP’s (doctor) do not have other options available, which is poor reflection on our NHS as this is a perfectly curable condition without medication.
If your experience was much more positive and the Doctor advised you about exercise, diet, etc then please let me know (in the comments box below.) Even better if your GP recommends you to a specialist therapist in anxiety then take advantage of this.
My program does not advocate medication and if you ever want to make a full recovery you will have to come off of it. I explain more below on why I do not advocate medication, but first let me explain the different types of medication for anxiety, panic attacks and stress..
Tranquilisers and Phobia flooding
Flooding is a psychotherapeutic method to overcome fears and phobias. Flooding was invented by psychologist Thomas Stampfl in 1967. This is a fast method to try to make the sufferer overcome their fears, but definitely a more traumatic one when compared with systematic desensitization through self exposure.
In order to help the sufferer overcome their fears and demonstrate the irrationality of what their thinking, a psychologist would put the sufferer in the situation that causes panic. The place would be somewhere were the exposure was extreme.
For example if someone had an extreme fear of heights they would be given a sedative and taken up to the top of a ten storey roof. The sufferer would stay there until the fear subsided. This may take many hours and cause much stress. The next day the same thing would happen without the medication.
The idea behiond this is because the sufferer has sat through their fears yesterday, today they would be less sensitized to it. During the exposure if their feelings subside, the sufferer could be pushed further by going even higher or getting closer to the edge.
The treatment can often be traumatic for the sufferer, but it may be an option they would like take if the fear is causing them real daily problems. Flooding your phobia can be effective and it’s a quick method of recovery. This technique is something however I would not advocate. Unless you have the correct tools to cope with your fears, you will simply just keep panicking.
For years I understood the theory of not running from my fears, so I would just stand and face it. But that’s about all I did. Of course I did not learn anything apart from nothing bad ever really happened to me, (which is an important lesson!). But it’s amazing how long my body panicked for. It didn’t ever seem to relinquish. The anxiety was awful and just kept coming and coming. Unless you can change the way you think, you are not going to feel better the next time you are in the situation.
Advocators of flooding will say if you stay in the situation long enough you will understand that your fears are unfounded. But I would say unless you actively pursue changing your thought patterns you will not heal your mental scars.
Systematic desensitization without medication incorporating the steps I teach, will eliminate phobias and fears. In any case, Flooding does have a high case of failure because you have not dealt with the core problem and masked feelings with tranquilizers.
Remember if you use flooding to overcome your fear of driving over bridges that’s fine to a point, but if your real problem is heights it’s not going to make the problem go away.
Medication for panic attacks the pros and cons
Sometimes I hear of people using medication as a one off to get through a particular fearful event. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this in the short term if you choose to do this. Of course the classic thing panic attack sufferers tend to do is self medicate with alcohol.
In my early twenties when I began suffering from panic attacks I had the chance through my best mate to spend two weeks in Florida. His uncle lived there, but it meant flying for 8 hours. I was trying to wrap my brain around how I was going to manage to sit on a plane for that length of time without panicking. So I made an appointment with my doctor and explained the problem. He gave me tranquilizer tablets (I think valium) to get me through the flight.
As it turned out I managed to feel ok and I didn’t take the tablets. The point is I see nothing wrong in using medication in the short term to get you through a difficult period, whether that’s a few months or something like a one-off event.
The problem with using medication is that you can become over-reliant on them. Therefore you should avoid using medication for two reasons
- Medication tends to produce unwanted side effects, including dependency. As time goes by there is often a need to increase the dosage to keep up the initial effect.
- If your system is full of drugs to combat the unpleasant symptoms, then you will never face your fears and learn that they are not real. That tiger that’s going to jump out and attack you is really a ‘paper tiger’.
Drugs are often referred to as a ‘crutch’. But if you think of someone who breaks their leg and then uses a crutch to get around, would they want to be reliant on crutches for the rest of their life. So why would you want to rely on drugs with horrible side effects.
I thoroughly believe when you suffer from an anxiety disorder you are suffering from a chemical imbalance. But trying to correct this with drugs is not the solution because you will never be really free from this perfectly curable condition. Medication will not heal your body, only applying the Golden Rules will allow your body to heal itself.
The Treatments Available in the UK
The two most common treatments on the NHS are medication and talking treatments. There are guidelines set by the National institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) which the medical profession is expected to follow. These guidelines are based upon –
- Expert opinion
- Sufferers experiences
NICE recommend different treatments according to the severity of the condition. Their guidelines can be found on their website. The reality is that depending on who you see and how these guidelines and treatments are adopted by each medical authority, the course of treatment can vary enormously.
The Types of Medication for Anxiety
The most common treatment given by GPs and psychiatrists is prescription drugs. This medication will not cure the problem but it aims to ease the more distressing symptoms.
Depending on what your doctor thinks is best for you, he may use either –
- Minor tranquilizers or sleeping pills – to help someone calm down or sleep
- Mood stabilizers – to control extreme moods
- Antipsychotic – to control disturbing thoughts
- Antidepressants – to lift depression and anxiety
Many people do find these medications helpful and can lessen their symptoms. This can allow them to have a social life, pick their children up from school, function at work and other normal activities. As mentioned above the problem with drugs is they can be addictive and cause physical side effects if taken over a long period and in high doses. Ideally you want be on them for the shortest possible time and taking the lowest possible dose.
NICE recommends that for anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, social anxiety, obsessions, phobias, etc; GP’s should prescribe antidepressants especially SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.)
SSRI Antidepressants deserve special mention. They tend to be tolerated better than other drugs. However in some cases they can cause problems with sleeping and may increase anxiety. If your GP suggests a course of SSRI drugs he or she should monitor your progress. If SSRI’s prove ineffective then tricyclic antidepressant, such as clomipramine and imipramine may prove beneficial.
These types of drugs often take several weeks to work. Your doctor should talk you through the side effects associated with each medication. It’s important to reduce the dosage slowly as withdrawal symptoms often include headaches, stomach upsets, tingling and dizziness.
Another common drug is Beta Blockers. They are often used to control heart palpitations, although how successful they are depends on the individual. They often can help in one-off events like exams or a flight.
Sleeping pills and Tranquillisers
Doctors should only prescribe sleeping pills and tranquilisers (Benzodiazepines) as a temporary measure for the most extreme anxiety. These drugs are particularly addictive and people can have all sorts of problems coming off them. Ideally they should not be taken for more than 4 weeks and the patient should have the lowest possible dose. The side effects have been well documented, they include unable to concentrate, feeling lethargic and loss of interest in things. Withdrawal symptoms often occur if you take them for any period of time. These can often be worse than the original anxiety! Withdrawal should be done over a long period of time. Another withdrawal symptom associated with long term use is panic attacks.
Tranquilizers will never tackle the root cause of your problem but they can give relief until another form of treatment is in place.
I am not a doctor and I don’t advocate drugs as a form of treatment. Therefore I am not going to go into greater depth on the types of medication available such as Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam) and Klonopin (clonazepam). If you do want to read more then I recommend this article by Helpguide.org.
Talking (psychological) treatments are another form of treatment which is quite popular, but not easy to obtain through the NHS. Talking can be a good way of freeing yourself of destructive thinking and behaviour. Some of the common types are
- Counselling – a way of talking through your troubles with another person.
- Group therapy – Talking with a group of fellow sufferers to help you develop self awareness and relate with other people who have similar conditions.
- Psychotherapy – aims to help you understand why you feel the way you do.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – aims to challenge your thoughts and behaviour.
- Hypnotherapy – hopes to identify the root cause of a fear or anxiety and replace it with something positive.
It’s important if you do undertake a talking therapy that you feel comfortable with whoever you’re interacting with, and that the therapist or group has a purpose and a structured format for recovery.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is covered in this program and is also recommend by NICE. It’s becoming more available on the NHS. CBT encourages the patient to develop new ways of thinking and to work out ways to challenge their beliefs so they feel in control.
CBT is usually offered as face to face therapy. However in recent years it’s become available online as online programs that the individual can download. CBT has become a successful and popular treatment and has been funded by the government program ‘Access to Psychological Therapies.’
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?
The key idea behind Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is that -
CBT is ‘present focused’. That means it works with thoughts and feelings in the here-and-now. A cognitive behavioural therapist will try to understand a situation by looking at separate parts.
Sometimes, through no fault of their own, people get ‘stuck’ in vicious cycles: the things they do to solve a problem can inadvertently keep it going
CBT is about finding out what is keeping us ‘stuck’ and making changes in our thinking and actions in order to improve the way we feel. It is a collaborative therapy and needs your active participation in order to be helpful. There is a lot of evidence to show it is an effective treatment.
Advice for relatives who care for panic / anxiety sufferers
Below is a list that will help anxiety & panic sufferers who are making their first tentative steps forward without medication. It’s aimed at carers or relatives who wish to help the sufferer -
- Don’t criticise them for their illness (which is curable). The more stress you put on them the worse it is. Sometimes I would be so sacred it felt like my head was going to explode or my heart was going to burst out of my chest. The last thing you want is someone threatening you or pushing too hard. Get to understand their threshold and when you can push them to expand their boundaries and when they need some TLC.
- Don’t get too emotionally involved. It may sound a little strange but the more you give them an emotional pillow to cry on, the more you could become their ‘safe person’. Be prepared to push them if they need it. Get to know how they can overcome this condition (read this eBook) and show them where they are going wrong. If you go to A+E with a broken arm ultimately you don’t want sympathy, you want to be treated.
- Fear is illogical. Forget the fact that what they fear is often harmless. Walking in a crowd of people is not dangerous, but to the sufferer it’s terrifying. Try to understand what thoughts are triggering this and challenge these. Don’t get frustrated if they make slow progress.
- Telling a person there fear is stupid is not helpful. From experience I can say that when I use to panic in busy shopping malls I would look around and know nothing that was going to hurt me. That didn’t stop my body panicking like a tiger was about to jump on me. Panic attack sufferers know that their phobias are silly, but they often get stuck trying to overcome them.
- The only people who can cure them are themselves. You as the carer or helper can become as knowledgeable as possible, but unless the will (and knowledge) is there on behalf of the sufferer he or she will not get better.
- STRUCTURE IS THE KEY. I put this in capital letters as it’s so important. Only if the sufferer has some sort of structure to their recovery will you see results. Plan your goals or targets and stick to them. Put the effort in to learn the tools of recovery and you will see results.
- Get to notice the triggers. The triggers are really the crux of the matter. These are the thoughts which are going to bring the rush of adrenaline and the feelings of wanting to run away. If you can pick up the signal quickly you can help to reinforce that they (the sufferer) must think positively. Try to counter act that bad devil that’s on their shoulder telling them to run, panic or they’re going to die. Say to them that they are relaxed, calm, and perfectly safe. Distract them with something they are interested in as well.
- Take advantage of their good days. Everyone has good days and bad days. When you’re seeing a marked improvement, try exposing them to more bigger and fearful situations. This can make such a difference, by pushing the person to make bigger steps forward their confidence will grow.
- Don’t be self conscious. Try to emphasize to the sufferer that the whole world is not watching them when they venture out to conquer their fears. Remember 99% of people would be supportive if they knew of their condition and wishing them well anyway. Ultimately the sufferer needs to act as if their cured and live life as normal as possible. Overtime they will desensitise themselves from their fears. This may mean walking around a shopping mall every day for month to get use to feelings of normality.
- Beware of the signs of panic. Each person is different. Most people will sweat, tremble, their breathing will be laboured, they will be unable to concentrate, etc. For me the unusual things were the sensitivity to light. I also felt like an iron bar was around my head which caused me to twitch my eyebrows. Recognise the signs so you can help.
- Don’t underestimate the fear and pain caused by panic attacks. Many sufferers have seen their lives spiral downwards over many years so they now feel very low. They have assigned themselves to defeat. The world is now like a prison caused by their own thoughts. The sufferer is unable to do activities that normal people take for granted. They will often be depressed as well. The physical pain is something which is awful. To panic every day is exhausting along with the stress, moodiness, irritability, etc. Some people lose weight whilst others will just comfort eat. They think their life is one big failure and that nobody understands them. They have all this to recover from as well as overcoming their fears.
MEDICATION & MY PROGRAM
My program does not recommend medication as a means of recovery. In most cases I believe you can cure panic attacks without the need of medication. Why do I advocate this? Drugs do not address the root cause of panic attacks. They tend to mask the problem and give you a false sense of control.
Alcohol can give you more confidence and improve your mood. Anxiety drugs do this as well. However you would not stay drunk your whole life because it gave you self-confidence. We are all aware of the long term health issues of alcohol abuse, and ultimately it would not boost your self confidence or make you more positive. So why would you stay on medication?
It does not empower you to acknowledge you have the power within to recover
When I was first diagnosed with anxiety, medication was probably the first thing the doctor recommended. Because I did not know any better I accepted I needed it, but with some fear of failure that I required medication for a ‘mental illness’.
Throughout my years of growing up I got use to going to the doctor when I had a health problem. They would provide medication and I got better. Unfortunately with panic attacks they don’t make you better. They hide the symptoms to some extent and give you other side effects instead.
I knew in my heart of hearts that medication was not the way to recover, so I stopped using it after several months. A few years later I was going through a patch where my symptoms were really strong and my life was suffering, so I went back on medication. Every now and gain I would go back and see my doctor. Because I had a job and some social life (I wasn’t agoraphobic) my case was not deemed severe enough to see a specialist. Medication was there only answer along with some words of wisdom and sympathetic advice. Don’t get me wrong, I am not bitter that I did not receive more help. The doctors simply did not have the tools at their disposal to help. With my course you have.
If you’re on medication to help block panic attacks and anxiety then I would recommend slowly weaning yourself off the medication. Do not stop your medication abruptly by yourself. You should only change your medication under your doctor’s guidance and supervision.
I am certainly not totally against medication especially to get you on your feet at the start of my program. The medication I was on (Seroxat) helped me, and it did not seem to have any significant side effects.
Speaking and reading about other sufferers who have taken tranquilizer type medication, they tend to give a much more negative feedback, especially about the side effects. I don’t know what super drug is now on the market for panic attacks and anxiety, and frankly I don’t care. It’s in the pharmaceutical company’s interest to keep producing these drugs as it’s a multi million pound industry. The figures speak for themselves regarding the huge number of people on medication for depression and anxiety. This article proves my point.
Research has shown that in the majority of cases panic attacks can be cured without drugs. This is borne out by therapists and others using similar methods to me. Studies also show that a large percentage of people who give up medication see their anxiety and panic symptoms return. I believe if you don’t have the tools to overcome anxiety and panic attacks then once the buffer (medication) is gone there is nothing to stand in the way of anxious feelings returning.
Whilst nobody is going to disagree about the effective use in the short term of anti anxiety medication (it can be very useful!), several studies have high-lighted the link between general long term drug use and mental illness.
Some people have no choice but to take long term medication if you had lung transplant for example. But I would rather try the path without medication if I had a choice (which you my program,) if depression, weight gain, personality changes are the side effects. Remember you have the power within you to cure yourself, and I will walk with you every step of the way.
NATURAL PILLS AND MEDICATION FOR ANXIETY, STRESS & PANIC ATTACKS
A final point I would like to make is that it's definitely worth trying some of the herbal remedies on the market. They don't have any of the side effects of pharmaceutical medication and they are not addictive. If you click on the links below you will find reviews and more information. I tried some of the herbal supplements available at the time and although it was not a miracle cure, it unquestionably helped.
HERBAL REMEDIES FOR ANXIETY / PANIC ATTACKS
ZenRx boosts your mood. Its a dietary supplement and helps reduce stress, depression,anxiety & panic attacks.
|True Calm is an effective combination supplement that incorporates the latest amino acid and neurotransmitter research into one easy-to-use formula. |
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Nuphorin Fast Acting Anti-Anxiety Natural supplement.
TranQuilix is a Relaxation formula with natural ingredients designed to treat stress, anxiety & Panic Attacks. Click Here For More Info
|MoodBoost includes natural herbs & supplements known to reduce anxiety, stress and Panic attacks. |
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