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You may have read that antidepressants are now a first line treatment for anxiety. If you are suffering from anxiety disorder, it may seem counterintuitive to think that antidepressants can help. This begs the question, “Do I need antidepressants for my anxiety?”

About Anxiety Disorder

It is important to point out the differences between stress and anxiety. While stress may cause symptoms like a clenched jaw, tense muscles, and sleep disruption, anxiety is a more complex disorder. Anxiety can also cause those same symptoms, but it also causes isolation and impairment.

About 40 million people struggle each year with an anxiety disorder. Although all anxiety disorders share the common traits of intense worry, dread, or fear, each type of anxiety has its own unique features. These types include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Features excessive worry that is out of proportion to the situation. The chronic worrying may cause impairment in functioning, extreme irritability, and symptoms like headache, stomach problems, fatigue, and muscle tension.
  • Panic Disorder. Features unpredictable and acute symptoms that mimic a heart attack. These include increased heart rate, shallow breathing, dizziness, chest tightness or pain, and nausea. Other symptoms include sweating, diarrhea, intense fear, and detachment.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Features a lingering state of anxiety after a trauma. Symptoms include nightmares, hyper arousal, and flashbacks of the event. PTSD may lead to avoidance behaviors, detachment, and substance abuse.
  • Specific Phobia. Features intense fear of a specific person, place, situation, or thing. The object of fear can trigger irrational behaviors in an attempt to avoid it. Symptoms include pounding heart, trembling, crying, shortness of breath and an intense desire to escape the trigger.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder. Features an irrational fear of being judged and embarrassed in public, which leads to avoidance of social settings and events. Symptoms include rapid heart rate, upset stomach, sweating, rigid body posture, and isolating behaviors.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Features intense anxiety in response to an irrational fear, followed by compulsive actions to reduce the anxiety. Triggers might be a fear of germs, fear of setting the house on fire, or a need for symmetry. 

How Do Antidepressants Work for Anxiety?

Treatment for anxiety disorder involves both medication and therapy. In the past, benzodiazepines were the first line intervention for anxiety. These drugs, though, are found to be highly addictive. In recent years, antidepressants have become the preferred drugs for treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.

When wondering, “Do I need antidepressants for my anxiety?” the short answer is “maybe.” Antidepressants have been shown to be very helpful in reducing the symptoms of anxiety, and have become a common treatment measure. However, some people do not need meds for their anxiety but rather rely on therapy, holistic measures, and exercise.

Although there are about thirty types of antidepressants on the market, the most effective ones for anxiety are SSRIs and SNRIs. These drugs can take up to six weeks to become effective, and you may need to trial a few to get the right fit for you. Your doctor may begin to slowly wean you off the antidepressant in 6-12 months.

Can Holistic Methods Help Anxiety?

If you suffer from anxiety, you can enhance the effects of meds and therapy by including some holistic methods into your routine. You can practice these activities daily, or use them when you feel your anxiety has been triggered.

Holistic actions to reduce the effects of anxiety include:

  1. Deep-breathing exercise. Try this focused breathing technique. Slowly inhale for a count of five, hold the breath for count of five, release breath to count of five. Repeat this 5-10 times to enjoy a calming effect.
  2. Exercise. Regular exercise reduces anxiety, stress, and tension in the body. Even taking a daily walk can improve mental health and enhance sleep quality.
  3. Mindfulness. By training the mind to focus on the present, and the sensory experience and breathing, the body will naturally relax.
  4. Grounding. Walking barefoot in the grass or sand, or even standing in the dirt can connect you with the earth’s energy. This has a calming effect.
  5. Yoga. Yoga involves purposeful movements and poses while also being focused on the breathing. Yoga offers a good workout and also results in a calm mind state.
  6. Aromatherapy. Essential oils of lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang, or bergamot can reduce the effects of anxiety and help you relax. 
  7. Meditation. Using a meditation technique can help reduce anxiety by bringing about a deeply relaxed state.
  8. Massage therapy. A deep relaxation massage targets the muscles where we tend to hold our stress, leaving you feeling relaxed and calm.

Treatment Options When Antidepressants Don’t Work for Anxiety

For some, outpatient psychiatric treatment may no longer keep the symptoms of anxiety at bay. In this case, a residential mental health treatment center can provide a more intensive approach to tackling the anxiety. 

After a thorough psych eval, and a review of health and mental health history, a custom treatment plan will be devised. This is the beauty of a small, private treatment center, having this kind of tailored approach that is designed your unique needs. 

Here is what to expect while being engaged in treatment:

  • Medication. Pharmacology is a mainstay for managing an anxiety disorder. “Do I need antidepressants for my anxiety?” The meds you are currently on are reviewed and maybe changed to include antidepressants or to try a different one.
  • Psychotherapy. The key symptom of anxiety is irrational fear, which is why behavioral therapies are helpful. In therapy, both individual and group sessions, the goal is to change the disordered thought patterns that fuel the fear. These may include:
  •  Cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Exposure therapy. 
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy.
  • Trauma-focused therapy. 
  • Holistic treatments. You will learn new ways to induce a relaxed state, which can later be utilized in recovery.

LifeSync Malibu Mental Health Treatment Center

LifeSync Malibu is a leading luxury provider of residential mental health treatment. If you are asking, “Do I need antidepressants for my anxiety?” you may benefit from a more intensive treatment program than an outpatient can offer. Call us today to discuss treatment options at (866) 491-4426