Medications for Anxiety Disorders


According to behavior genetic theories, some people are predisposed genetically to feel anxious in certain situations. They might also have an overly active autonomic nervous system. The supporters of genetic theories assert that anxiety is not caused so much by psychological factors, rather it is due to biological or biochemical imbalances in the brain. According to this biological theory, in some people fear and anxiety are hereditary and as such, inevitable.

Medications are often recommended in combination with psychotherapy. The use of anti-anxiety medications has increased dramatically over the past decades. They are now a popular choice of treatment among doctors and patients for two main reasons. First of all pharmaceutical companies must make a profit and their marketing campaigns are geared to sell as many pills as possible. Moreover, anti-anxiety medications involve much less effort than psychotherapy.

According to psychiatric theories, people that have some anomalies in their behavior may suffer from a genetic or organic illness or disorder. This idea that human behavior is biologically determined has had important consequences in the treatment of phobias and anxiety. When a doctor prescribes a medication for anxiety or phobia, he or she is sending two parallel messages to the patient: “(1) I treat you because I have to treat you, and I do it with drugs, but (2) fundamentally I believe that you cannot change.” This type of message is conveyed at the unconscious level and it foments resistance to change.

However, even psychiatrists themselves admit that medications won’t cure anxiety or phobias. They just numb the person to the unpleasant sensations. Masking some of your symptoms may allow you to function in the short-term but drugs can never help you perceive your reality differently. Medications can not teach you skills of adaptability.

As well, while medication can relieve some symptoms of anxiety, they also come with side effects and safety concerns. Their side effects include nausea, apathy, or feeling jittery to some severe adverse effects such as impairing your ability to think clearly, causing sexual dysfunction and seizures. Manfred Eigen was a German biophysical chemist who won the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work on measuring fast chemical reactions. According to Eigen it’s impossible to introduce a chemical substance in the brain and pretend to control its effects. A minimum variation in the biochemical equilibrium of the brain generates a chain reaction of alterations in the organism that it’s impossible to control its ultimate consequences.

“Toxic Psychiatry” by Dr. Peter Breggin is considered as the most complete overview of psychiatry and psychiatric medication. According to Breggin, the prolonged use of some drugs (more than three years) creates a form of chemical lobotomy. Xanax is a drug that belong to a group called benzodiazepines. The other drugs in the same category are Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Serax, Halcion, Dalmane, and Halcion. Xanax and its fellow drugs are used to treat anxiety. According to Dr. Breggin, these drugs, especially Xanax, are known as “alcohol in a pill” because their effects are so similar to alcohol. Under their influence people are no longer rational or aware of their behavior because they have impaired judgment.

Medications are not risk free and in some cases they may even exacerbate the problem. As well, it takes time for a medication to work in your body. Usually during the first few weeks the symptoms worsen before you notice any improvement. It can sometimes take up to a month before some of the symptoms begin to fade. I do not negate the effectiveness of drugs in treating some mental disorders. Here I’d like to point out the dangers of a radically exclusive biological approach. Too much of a good thing can be dreadful!

Secondly, medications for anxiety disorders are not as effective as advertised. They simply mask the symptoms. It’s interesting to know that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of psychiatric diagnosis, initially classified panic attacks as a form of “neurotic phobia”. This meant that fears, anxiety and panic attacks were seen as a psychological problem. However the latest edition, DSM-IV, classifies panic attacks as an “anxiety disorder”. This change in diagnosis shows an inclination toward the biological framework which justifies the use of drugs for its treatment.

Changes in DSM (V)

The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) has a number of changes to anxiety phobias. This article outlines some of the major changes to these conditions.

The most significant change is for agoraphobia, specific phobia, and social phobia. In order to receive one of these diagnoses no longer does the person have to recognize that his anxiety is excessive or unreasonable.

According to my experience, the majority of the cases of anxiety disorders, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders do not need any medication. With the right intervention, anyone suffering from anxiety disorders, phobias and OCD can overcome their problems in an efficient and effective way.