There are many forms of anxiety that can have a dramatic impact on everything from your relationships to your likelihood of developing a substance abuse problem. They include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia, panic attacks, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Physical symptoms can range from insomnia to tremors and hypertension. Psychological effects often include depression, difficulty processing information, memory loss, and extreme emotional responses to everyday situations.
Here at FHE Health, we know that addressing the underlying causes of anxiety is critical to the success of our program participants. Many of our clients struggle with addiction to anxiety medications and other substances they’ve used in an effort to treat their anxiety by self-medicating.
The Prevalence of Anxiety in America
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older.”
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 19.1 percent of adults aged 18 and older – or one in five – “had [an] anxiety disorder in the past year”, and that “Past year prevalence of any anxiety disorder was higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%).”
Because anxiety disorders are so prevalent, a number of anxiety medications have been developed to treat these conditions. Non-pharmaceutical interventions include meditation for anxiety, talk therapy, and holistic treatments such as exposure therapy and neurofeedback training.
Commonly-Prescribed Anxiety Medications
The most common class of prescription medications used to treat anxiety disorders such as panic attacks and social phobias is benzodiazepines, which includes fast-acting drugs such as Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Serax. These medications work by binding to neurotransmitters, which in turn depresses the central nervous system in order to slow down brain activity, heart and respiration rate, and reduce body temperature.
When used on a short-term, as-needed basis (also known as ‘PRN’) benzodiazepines can be highly effective in helping patients manage anxiety related to an exceptionally stressful or traumatic situation. Unfortunately, the body tends to quickly adapt to benzos, and when these drugs are used for an extended period of time they become less and less effective.
Because many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression, some doctors choose to prescribe anxiety medications which are antidepressants such as tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil and Tofranil. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, are also commonly prescribed to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorders. Drugs in this class include Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and Paxil. These help to increase the uptake of serotonin, a chemical produced in the brain, which helps the patient feel calmer, more emotionally stable, and less agitated.
The Risks of Anxiety Medications
When patients who are suffering from anxiety are treated with anxiety medications alone, the complex issues that led to the development of the anxiety disorder are often left untreated. This can lead to a dependence on pharmaceuticals for relief from the debilitating symptoms. That’s why many people who struggle with addiction to alcohol, prescription, and street drugs also suffer from one or more types of anxiety disorders.
Drug-Free Anxiety Treatment Options
At FHE Health, our team of addiction medicine experts uses advanced neuro-rehabilitative techniques to accurately assess each one of our program participants, develop a personalized treatment plan, and evaluate the effectiveness of the treatments on an ongoing basis.
For people who are addicted to anxiety medications, often drug-free options such as participation in physical fitness training, meditation for anxiety, and other holistic treatments for anxiety provide long-term solutions to the root causes of conditions such as GAD, PTSD, and OCD.
Research Shows Meditation for Anxiety Can Reduce Some Symptoms
A recent literature review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the results of 47 clinical trials which investigated the impact of mindfulness meditation on a variety of anxiety disorders.
These trials included over 3,000 participants, and the study authors concluded that “Mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety.” However, the researchers also assert that: “We found low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight. We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (ie, drugs, exercise, and other behavioral therapies).”
While these findings do suggest that anxiety medications won’t be replaced by meditation alone, here at FHE Health our holistic treatments include a variety of interventions such as in-depth neurological testing, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychiatric care, and deep brain stimulation therapy. In combination, they can achieve effective, lasting results.
Combining Anxiety Medications With Holistic Treatments for Anxiety
In cases where a person who is suffering from anxiety is treated with prescription medications, best practices dictate that the medication should always be used in combination with other forms of therapy such as exposure therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy.
Ideally, drugs for anxiety should be used to provide patients with relief from debilitating anxiety-related symptoms so they can seek out non-invasive, non-addictive ways to deal with symptoms of PTSD, OCD, and panic attacks. Unlike other illnesses like the flu or a common cold that run their course in a matter of days or weeks, anxiety disorders tend to worsen over time when they are untreated – that’s why many people who suffer from anxiety are also diagnosed with co-current disorders such as depression and substance abuse.
Want to Know More About Addiction, Anxiety Medications, and Holistic Treatments for Anxiety?
At any one time, close to 20 percent of adults in the United States are struggling with issues related to anxiety. If you’re dealing with panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, irrational fears, or other symptoms related to anxiety, you’re not alone. Whether you’re a first responder who is struggling with PTSD, a young person who is dealing with crippling panic attacks, or a woman who is addicted to anxiety medications, we’re here for you.
To learn more about our innovative, cutting-edge anxiety treatments here at FHE Health contact us online or call us toll-free at (833) 596-3502. Our team of compassionate, experienced intake counselors is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide you with answers to your questions about anxiety treatments at FHE Health.