Many view the need to resort to medication, as a serious implication in any illness other than simple fevers, coughs and colds. They hope that in letting nature take its course, they can return to good health with adequate rest and proper nourishment. In instances of extreme nervousness and anxiety, they do not actually understand the complexity of their medical condition and view the use of medication to function normally, as an indicator that they are somewhat out of control. When prescribed anxiety medications, they face a dilemma - on the one hand, the medication can help them, but on the other, they know it can cause them unpleasant side effects. Most people prefer to avoid medications as far as possible, only resorting to their use if their medical condition leaves them no other choice.
Taken under the strict supervision of a medical practitioner, medications can control the symptoms of anxiety. However, while they do bring relief to sufferers, they do not bring about a cure. The individuals must participate in other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy, to learn how to manage their thoughts and emotions, so as to lessen their anxiety, and avoid anxiety and the resulting panic attacks. For a short while a combination of medication and therapy is an ideal way to treat their condition, and then the medication can be tapered off. Before prescribing any medication, it is the duty of a medical practitioner to ensure that the individual clearly understands his or her condition, as well as the pros and cons of being put on medication, as against any other form of psychotherapy.
The most common type of medications that have been prescribed have been Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam). Their mechanisms for bringing about change, is through the reduction of brain activity, but in the process, the individual feels tiredness, poor coordination and may, in fact, undergo a sensation of being drunk, without having actually consumed alcohol. Use of this drug for extended periods of time, can actually lead to depression. The symptoms of acute anxiety disappear relatively fast - say, within an hour of taking them. It must be emphasized that they bring relief, but no cure, and hence, upon stoppage, the symptoms will return in full force. These medicines should not be taken over long periods because they are habit forming and it may be difficult to wean someone off them in the long run. Thus, anxiety sufferers should first try activities like meditation, exercise, dancing and other outdoor sports to control their anxiety, which can help them to build up their feel good homones.
In view of the undesirable and often dangerous effects of the benzodiazepines, antidepressants and beta-blockers are also prescribed. Beta-blockers are usually prescribed for treating hypertension, and are now also used to also control anxiety. They act by interfering with the activity of a stress hormone, norepinephrine, which is implicated in the fight-or-flight response in instances of sheer anxiety. They reduce the rapid heart beat, trembling, sweating and dizziness that accompany a panic attack, and have also been found to be a very suitable medication to be prescribed for various kinds of phobias. Examples of beta-blockers are propranolol and atenolol, which produce side effects like slow pulse, sleepiness, and even queasiness, but even these are manageable.
Anti-anxiety medications, broadly speaking reduce anxiety by slowing the body’s central nervous system, and calming the mind. They should be taken with extreme caution, especially since , in view of their so-called calming properties, they may sometimes be taken to help with insomnia, whether a real or imagined inability to sleep.