Every few years a miracle drug reaches the common parlance of our ailing society. In the 1960's, "Mother's little helper" was Valium. These days, I see more and more patients who tell me that their doctors have prescribed alprazolam (Xanax) for their anxiety. What could be "trouble" with taking a medication that will create euphoria, suppress the nervous system during "attacks" of anxiety or panic, and has been in use for more than three decades?
Your family physician or your psychiatrist is often not trained, or even in business, to provide the therapy you need to defeat anxiety. They know what pharmaceutical companies inform them about instant relief for the symptoms of anxiety, as indeed Xanax does provide. A good physician will only prescribe medication for moderate to severe anxiety and will tell you that you must be in therapy before she will agree to prescribe it. And if you have moderate to severe anxiety, you need to find a complete treatment for it, which may include an appropriate anxiolytic.
Relying on alprazolam to calm your nervous system means that you give that responsibility to a chemical agent and you lose the power you have to heal yourself. A prescription that suggests you take it whenever you "need" it increases the likelihood that you will believe that you don't have that power. When you "need" to rely on it more and more often, you create a vicious cycle of less empowerment and more anxiety. It is akin to having a stiff drink whenever you feel nervous. It doesn't fix the problem and will eventually create another one you don't need.
Fear is supposed to be helpful to us. It lets us know when to be on guard for danger. It alerts us to threat so that we can take life-preserving action. But when we react severely to fear throughout the day, something has gone terribly haywire, and that something needs to be fixed. Medication to make us "relaxed" right now does not fix the problem.
Successful treatment for anxiety does not involve digging into your past to find out who is to blame for your anxiety. It does involve teaching you information and skills you do not have. It does involve your making significant changes in your life that you and your therapist identify.
If your anxiety is caused by stressful circumstances in your life, we can address those. But anxiety becomes a way of life if you allow it, so it is critical that you learn to identify the "triggers" of your anxiety and to think about them rationally; to calm yourself with proven techniques, and to take care of your body's needs. It is well documented that sleep deprivation, dehydration, poor nutrition, and stressful relationships can contribute to anxiety. All of these are within your power to change.
The trouble with Xanax is that it is a hindrance to real and lasting recovery. Take the time and make the effort to find proper treatment of the whole problem. You are worth it!
Marilyn Miller, MS, LPC ~ Psychotherapist
...Delighting every day in helping people find peace in their lives, relieving anxiety, depression, and promoting self-care.