Anti-anxiety medications, specifically benzodiazepines, are useful tools for battling anxiety, but taking them also comes with disadvantages. When taken daily, tolerance develops, and higher and higher doses are eventually needed to achieve the same anxiolytic effects. Also, there have been recent studies that have shown a link between benzodiazepine usage and the development of dementia later in life.
Although additional studies are needed to show whether the benzodiazepine usage actually causes dementia or not, these studies are enough to make many people re-think their daily benzodiazepine usage. Stopping cold-turkey can be harmful to your health, so read on to see how counseling services can help you quit without harming your health or experiencing rebound anxiety.
The Importance of a Supervised Benzodiazepine Taper
Quitting any psychoactive medication "cold-turkey" is a bad decision for many reasons, and stopping benzodiazepines abruptly can be extremely dangerous. Depending on your current dosage, you could experience seizures when stopping abruptly. Even if you don't have a seizure after quitting, you will definitely experience extreme discomfort. Dizziness, extreme rebound anxiety, and even extreme depression or mania can be triggered.
It is very important to not stop a benzodiazepine abruptly, and instead have a supervised taper. A supervised taper is done under the supervision of a licensed counselor who can lead you through every step of the way and tell you how much to lower your dosage and when. For example, if you are taking 2 mgs of a medication daily, you may be advised to cut down to 1.75 mgs for a couple of weeks, then 1.5 and so on.
Although you may be tempted to taper at home, a supervised taper is much safer. Depending on how you react to each dosage decrease, you may need to stay at a specific dosage for a longer or shorter period of time than expected, depending on how it is affecting you. You may even need an occasional slight increase again if you are experiencing too much discomfort at a specific step in the taper.
Learning to Manage Anxiety Naturally
A counselor will help you with much more than your medication taper when stopping your benzodiazepine usage. He or she will also help you learn to manage your anxiety naturally, so as you decrease your medication dosage, you can manage the anxiety that may come along with it. You can also then use what you learn to manage anxiety for the rest of your life once you are completely anxiety medication-free.
Counseling techniques used to help manage anxiety include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This is the most common type of counseling used for anxiety-sufferers. This type of therapy helps you understand how your specific thoughts can end up triggering anxiety. The counselor then helps you learn to stop negative, anxiety-producing thoughts in their tracks before they begin triggering acute anxiety in your brain.
Exposure Therapy. This is more helpful for specific phobias, including social anxiety and fear of specific items or events, than generalized anxiety. Exposure therapy consists of gradual, supervised exposure to what causes you anxiety. This often starts with exposure in the presence of your counselor, then "homework" where you conquer your fears alone, then report back your experience to your therapist. This can sound scary, but remember that the exposure sessions start short and easy until you gradually learn to conquer your fears.
Aside from helping you taper your medication in a healthy way and helping you with specific therapy techniques, your counselor can also be there to answer any questions you have and give you other tips for success during the medication discontinuation process. You may receive dietary advice, such as cutting caffeine consumption that may be increasing your anxiety, and advice on physical activities that can help you during the midst of an anxiety attack. For example, many people find that a simple brisk walk can help stop an anxiety attack.
Whether you are worried about the possible harmful long-term effects of taking an anti-anxiety medication daily, or you are simply tired of taking a pill every day, don't quit without the supervision of a counselor. He or she can help you quit safely and help you learn to manage your anxiety naturally. You can then be pill-free and anxiety-free!Share
19 February 2015
I was always very healthy throughout my childhood, but when I became a teenager, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. Thankfully, I had the support of my loving family to help keep me upbeat during a time that could have led to me experiencing the depression that some do after they first learn they will have an illness for life. I am very grateful for the advice I have gotten throughout my life, so I decided to create a blog where I can share all of the advice that has helped me live a happy, healthy life, despite having a chronic illness. Since I am on a medication that suppresses my immune system, I have also studied up on many other illnesses and tips for avoiding them and treating them. I plan to post health tips for people of a variety of ages and suffering with various illnesses!