Antidepressants, Anxiety Medication, Happy Pills....they're all used interchangeably, however, whatever you choose to call them, there is a lot of controversy surrounding them, and is still considered a very taboo subject.
Some people are dead set against using any form of conventional medication for Anxiety, but some can't use any because of religious reasons or bad side effects and then there are some people who can't do without it.
I simply say "Do what suits you!"
As someone who approaches Anxiety Disorder recovery holistically and in a complementary manner, I am a firm believer in the fact that Anxiety medication has it's place in the world of Mental Health.
However, I am also a person who favours the natural way over the conventional way, but sometimes, when we are in a life or death situation, or perhaps in my case, in the depths of a crippling and severe Anxiety Disorder, and having suicidal thoughts, medication for Anxiety can be the very thing that saves lives!
This does not detract from the fact that Anti Anxiety medication is very much overused, and is incorrectly looked at being a 'quick fix' when in fact recovery from Anxiety Disorder is SO much more than just putting a pill in your mouth!
Recovery from Generalized Anxiety Disorder is not linear, and it's not a fast process, whether you opt to take medication or not. Recovery is complex and requires great courage and determination!
Does medication help Anxiety?
Obviously when talking about methods that have helped a person, we need to always bear in mind the ever famous saying 'what works for one does not always work for another'
Although in theory, humans have the same basic physiology and biology, we can also bear similarities to one person, but major differences to another. This explains why you may be allergic to cats, whereas your friend is not, or why your neighbour can't eat wheat, but you can. This is true for everything, ranging from diets, hobbies that we enjoy, beliefs, allergies, and of course medications and recovery methods.
So when we ask questions like 'does medication help Anxiety, we have to look at both sides of the coin.
I have always described my own experience with Anti Anxiety medication as "being the hoist that lifted me up and off the cliff that I was dangling from, and lifted me up just enough so that I could help myself"
And that is exactly what it did! Anxiety Medication helped me so much!
I would go as far as to say it saved me from what I call sheer Anxiety hell!
My Anxiety Disorder experience was severe.
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder in 2009, but I had been struggling with Anxiety and Panic attacks and irrational thoughts since 2001.
It got so bad that I was incapable of functioning normally, I couldn't do the simplest of tasks. I couldn't drive, I couldn't even feed my dogs, and after a while, I began to experience dissociation as well.
When all is said and done, I was basically a lifeless entity living inside a glove, just floating around the earth like vapour. It felt like I was viewing the world from inside a bubble, and the world I was viewing was foreign to me.
Long story short, I was put onto the correct medication for my Anxiety and Panic Disorder, but specifically relating to my person and symptoms, and slowly but surely, each of my 45 symptoms started to disappear, making the world less foreign to me, and making my life a bit easier to cope with.
Once I was rid of the dissociation and many of my Anxiety related symptoms had reduced, my brain fog lifted, and this enabled me to help myself further, perhaps without the use of long term medication, and as I began to explore other methods and treatments aimed at Anxiety Disorder recovery, I began to slowly withdraw from most of my medication.
However, that is MY story.
Another person may have a similar story of Anxiety medication helping them, but maybe their medication was different from mine. Then there are people who felt no different taking any medication and say it didn't help at all, and then you get people who say the side effects of the medication made them feel ten times worse!
And this is the problem.
There is no one correct answer because there are many different ways to approach Anxiety Disorder recovery and many different medications and Antidepressants available.
So, does Anxiety medication work?
Well, yes it can, and no, it can't, because it all depends on the individual.
All is all?
I believe that Anti Anxiety medication can do wonders for short term relief, because for me, medication saved my life!
How Anxiety Medication works
Once you have been diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, you will need to discuss treatment options with the doctor.
If you decide to go the conventional medication route, only the doctor will be able to prescribe this!
This can vary as well.
Sometimes people just go to their regular GP who prescribe some kind of Antidepressant and/or refer them to a therapist.
Sometimes the doctor will just refer the patient to a Psychiatrist.
Psychologists are therapists who can teach and help you deal with your emotions in a more healthy way, but they cannot prescribe medication.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the mind, and therefore can diagnose and prescribe medication for Mental Illness's such as Anxiety Disorders, Depression and Bipolar Disorder.
Which Anxiety Medication is the best for me?
Firstly, a qualified doctor is the ONLY one who can decide what might be the best Anxiety medication for you.
They will typically need a full medical history, and will need to know any allergies or current medication that you are taking in order to prescribe something that may help you.
Antidepressants are serious drugs, and their dosages are not to be played around with unless under the guidance of a doctor.
Unfortunately, it's not just as easy as asking 'which medication is best' because there are hundreds of different Anxiety medications on the market, and finding the right one may be a bit of trial and error.
This is no fault of the doctors or yours, but the simple thing of that we're all different and react to things differently.
Recovery from Anxiety Disorder is a journey, a rocky journey, and you have to be patient!
Remember that Antidepressants are designed to have a direct effect on certain hormones and this can either agree with a person or disagree with a person, which can result in side effects.
If an Antidepressant does not agree with you, you must go back to the doctor and keep trying until you find the correct one that works for you!
There are four main types of Anxiety medication that a doctor could prescribe:
1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These are drugs that help to prevent re-absorption of serotonin by the brain.
Well known examples of SSRIs include Prozac and Zoloft.
2. Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): These help to not only prevent re-absorption of serotonin, but another hormone known as Norepinephrine.
These are the most common type of Anti-depressants that are prescribed.
3. Benzodiazepines: These are more commonly known as Tranquilizers, and help to slow the nervous system down. The tend to work fairly quickly.
Xanax and Valium are two well known Benzodiazepines.
4. Tricyclic Anti-Depressants: Like SSRIs and SNRIs, Tricyclic Anti-depressants help prevent the re-absorption of serotonin, but additionally they help to keep other cell receptors from reabsorbing as well.
What are the side effects of Antidepressants?
I hate this question, because unfortunately, side effects from Anxiety medications are limitless.
Every one knows that all medications come with an insert which has a list of different side effects that a person might experience.
However, it doesn't necessarily mean that you will experience them, or if you'll even experience any side effects for that matter.
You could however, experience something that has not been listed in the insert, or you may find that they make you feel worse that what you felt before, or even that there is no change at all.
Although disappointing, this is nothing to get upset over, it just means that this specfic Anxiety medication does not agree with you!
A medication that is right for you, is one that helps to reduce your symptoms AND one that gives you no or very little side effects that don't disrupt your life.
Do Antidepressants make you gain weight?
Antidepressants have long had a reputation for making people gain weight, but again this is unique to every single individual.
This was true for me personally with one of the Antidepressants I was prescribed back when I was much younger.
However, some Antidepressants are more likely to cause weight gain than others, and about 25% of people complain about weight gain after taking Antidepressants for more than 6 months.
Some worth mentioning are:
Some Tricyclic Antidepressants such as Doxepin and Amitriptyline were listed as being big offenders, but some SSRIs like Paroxetine, Zoloft and Prozac were the worst for weight gain!
There is also a type of Anti-Depressant called Mirtazapine that doesn't really fit into any of the above mentioned categories, but it has shown time and time again to cause weight gain and increased appetite. However it's side effects are not as bad as other anti-depressants.
Experts say they don't really know the link between weight gain and Antidepressants. There are some theories that perhaps once the brains chemistry is more balanced and happier, the person feels more likely to eat as they associate food with pleasure.
Another theory is that a person who has lost weight due to severe depression may start eating more once their mood lifts.
Personally, I feel it's fairly obvious why weight gain happens.
If you know anything about hormones, you will know that they are what make up the endocrine system, which is a system of glands that produce hormones which are responsible for controlling many things such as weight, metabolism, sleep cycles and moods.
When one hormone is not working properly, the entire endocrine system is out of balance.
Antidepressants are chemically altering the systems in our bodies, which first and foremost affect the hormones - serotonin being the most common one!
So is it really that shocking?
According to an article in WebMD, experts say that switching drugs may help if you have an issue with major weight gain.
The problem however comes in when the drugs are actually working well with regards to lifting your anxiety or depression, but they are causing the weight gain.
Switching drugs because of weight gain may help, but you may not get the level of effect with the new drugs as well as the old ones.
So it really is just about trial and error.
You as the individual also need to decide if you are willing to have a bit of extra weight while you are recovering from mental illness, and tackle the weight issue once you are of more stable mind.
Registered dietitian, Samantha Heller says " The best thing you could do would be to head off the weight gain before it starts by switching to a more nutritious diet and increasing your daily exercise as soon as you start taking the Antidepressant.
Even if you don't lose the weight immediately, you can begin controlling the gain and help your body to stabilize for a while"
Heller also goes on to say that " The bottom line here is that not only can healthy eating and exercise help control your weight gain, they can also improve your depression, which in turn may help you cut down on your medication - and that in turn makes weight loss easier"
However, it is emphasized that for some people no amount of healthy eating or exercise is going to keep the weight off.
If you are one of these people, it's important to keep your eye on the prize - recovery from Mental Illness!
Can I take Antidepressants when pregnant?
In short - yes, you can take Antidepressants when you are pregnant, but this is a subject that needs very careful consideration.
It can be extremely tough on an expectant mother who is taking Antidepressants, to decide whether or not she will continue with them.
Do you stop taking them to reduce risk to your baby, but to the detriment of your own mental health, or do you carry on taking them knowing the possible risks of the drugs on your unborn child?
Pregnancy is a highly emotional time for many women, with hormones contributing to a lot of body changes and emotions.
Antidepressants have been successfully taken by many pregnant women in the past, and continue to be taken by pregnant women and post pregnancy women as well who experience post natal depression.
In a nutshell, the decision lies with you, and if this is a dilemma you are faced with, you need to firstly weigh up the pros and cons of taking Antidepressants while pregnant, and then secondly and most importantly - this is something that has to be discussed with your doctor!
Regardless of whether you have been taking the medication for a long time, you have to inform your doctor that you are intending to become pregnant, so that they can suggest an alternative for you should it be that you cannot continue with your current medication.
In addition to your doctor or psychiatrist, it is also suggested that you speak with your OBGYN.
What are the risks of taking Antidepressants while pregnant?
It's important to know that no medication is 100% safe, regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, but research on Antidepressants and pregnancy have been mixed and inconclusive.
Some of the more common risks to the baby include:
Low Blood Sugar
Drug residue in breast milk
All in all, the risks are still pretty low, with only a 3% risk of having a baby with some form of birth defect from Antidepressants.
However on the other side of the coin, expectant mothers who have depression, and leave it untreated while pregnant can run the risk of passing the symptoms onto the baby! Shocking as this may seem, according to a study published in Biological Psychiatry, exposure to depression within the womb has been linked to malformations, heart problems, and premature birth.
The symptoms can also carry on as the baby grows up, presenting themselves as irritable, less active and developmental and behaviour issues in early childhood.
However, the possibilities of this happening are low.
It is also important to note that taking Antidepressants while pregnant holds greater risk in the first trimester, and according to Dr Nancy Byatt, (a physician and associate professor of psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Massachusetts), pregnant women who take Antidepressants in the second and third trimester have a much lower risk of affecting their babies.
The final thoughts here would also be to emphasize to never just stop taking your medication if you are already on Antidepressants.
Rather instead, be smart and if you want to stop taking them, then discuss with your doctor about weaning yourself off the medication before you conceive.
If you have an unplanned pregnancy, you still need to speak to your doctor, and they can work with you to decide the best course of action.
How to relieve Anxiety naturally
There are so many different kinds of natural and alternative remedies aimed at treated Anxiety and Depression naturally, and once again, it all comes down to what works for the individual.
When considering a natural or alternative treatment for Anxiety, it is very important that you consult with a trained professional.
Just because something is natural doesn't mean it is right for you, and if you are on other medication, this obviously has to be taken into account as well.
So lets look at the different categories of how to reduce Anxiety naturally.
Lets first break it down a bit to understand the different types of treatment available:
Alternative Medicine: When methods that are non-mainstream like Acupuncture are used instead of conventional methods. This can include natural medicine as well.
Examples are: Acupuncture, Herbs, Aromatherapy, Reiki and Homeopathy.
Natural Medicine: A form of medicine that uses a natural approach.
Examples are Herbs and Aromatherapy.
Complementary Medicine: When both natural and conventional methods are used alongside each other. While it is important to get advice from a professional with any treatment, it is especially important with complementary medicine, as some conventional medication doesn't mix well with herbal remedies, and thus can cancel each other out, and lose any benefits they have.
Examples of this could be a form of conventional medication and Rescue Remedy or a Bach Flower Remedy, Herbal Teas and Aromatherapy.
Traditional Medicine: Uses knowledge and skills from a time before modern medicine. These are usually passed down through generations.
Examples are: Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.
Holistic Medicine: Aims to treat the person as a whole, and treating the body, mind and spirit as one.
An example could be something such as treating a person with conventional medication, and suggesting counselling, a diet change, some form of exercise like yoga and meditation therapy.
As you can see, there are many routes that a person can try to relieve Anxiety naturally, and no one can really advise on the best treatment because it is all down to the individual.
One thing that needs to be made abundantly clear, is that, treatment is not just about what you put into your mouth in the form of pills - if you choose that route.
Diet, lifestyle and therapy for changing thought patterns and habits are crucial.
You can do this is the form of a reputable therapist, or else search on google for a Anxiety course or method that you can purchase.
There are quite a few out there that are really good at helping to change negative and anxious mindsets.
Just always remember, when shopping online, purchase wisely, and always research the reputability of someone first.
My personal favourite natural remedies for reducing Anxiety:
Here are a list of some natural remedies that I love for treating my own Anxiety.
Please remember to always consult your doctor before taking any kind of remedy or medication!
Also bear in mind that I do not use all of these at once!
Should I take medication for Anxiety?
This is a decision that only you and your doctor can make.
If you feel that you could be suffering from Anxiety or Depression, your first point of contact should be your doctor, as they are the only ones who can either prescribe medication for you, or refer you to a Psychiatrist.
Are Anxiety meds worth it?
From personal experience - yes, they are. However, some people don't agree.
It's a different experience for each person.
Are Anxiety meds safe?
It depends on how you define 'safe' in this regard.
Anxiety medication is just like any other medication. It doesn't come without it's side effects or risks. It could make you feel worse or it could bring on new symptoms.
However, if you mean 'are they safe' to ingest, then yes, they are all safe for consumption. If you mean 'are they safe' from an addiction point of view, then bear in mind that this is why these medication are so tightly controlled, and have to be under the strict guidance from a doctor. If you come from a past of addiction, inform your doctor, and again, they'll be able to prescribe a medication that won't be addictive.
Does Anxiety medication make you sleepy or Drowsy?
Yes, some can, but it depends on the medication and the individual taking the medication.
Should Anxiety be treated with medication?
No, it doesn't have to be treated with only medication.
This is a personal decision for the individual and their doctor to make.
There are many other routes that a person can take that doesn't not involve medication.
I also think it's very important to bear in mind, that even if you do opt for the medication route, you still need to make a conscious effort to treat the anxiety holistically.
Anxiety Medication is designed to take away the symptoms, not the cause of Anxiety!
Does Anxiety medication make you loose weight?
Some can make you loose weight, such as Lexapro and Prozac, however, I personally wouldn't take this information to heart, as any medication has the power to cause weight gain or weight loss. While some people reported weight loss on medications like Lexapro and Prozac, some reported weight gain!
There are medications which are more prone to causing changes in weight, however, it's dependable yet again on the individual and the medication used.
Disclaimer: Products that are highlighted in purple will take you directly to a link as to where you can buy them online. Please note that I do receive a small percentage of commission from these.
I have personally used and continue to use these highlighted products to keep my Anxiety stable and can recommend them!