Should I Take Medication for Stress and Anxiety? What To Consider

With depression and anxiety on the rise, it’s not surprising that usage of medication for these conditions is also on the increase.

While I’m not the type of enlightened person who goes to therapy proactively or even regularly, I have recently been seeing a therapist due to a high stress period in my life. In our most recent session, which took place after a particularly challenging week at work, she suggested I consider taking anti-anxiety medication.

Now while in my corporate job I am considered a hippy, I think few outside the corporate world would agree. I have no objection to prescribed drugs and even briefly considered a career in pharmacy during my teens (due to my interest in Chemistry rather than any drug obsession). 

I had never considered myself as someone with a serious “mental illness”, after all isn’t it normal to feel stressed and anxious sometimes? It’s not like I sit awake all night thinking about how my loved ones might die, like they always seem to in books. I did have to admit though, this was impacting my sleep sometimes so maybe this was outside the normal limits of work related stress.

So when she first mentioned taking medication, I thought, if it helps I’m happy to give it a go. However, after she explained that I should really take any anti-anxiety medication for at least six months to be able to assess the effects, I thought that maybe I was taking this decision a bit lightly. After all, while I have been struggling with stress and anxiety, this is linked to a new role at work, and it does feel somewhat extreme to have to medicate just to be able to manage my (admittedly high pressure) job. 

As with all key decisions, the next step could only be the Pro / Con list:

3 Reasons to Start Taking Anxiety Meds

Reason 1 – How Fast Would It Work?

Based on my reading, in most cases the first medication you’ll be offered will be a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). This essentially works by increasing the levels of serotonin (the “happy hormone”) in the brain.

According to google, this takes several weeks to work. Since, I have been struggling with anxiety for several months now, several weeks doesn’t really feel that long to wait.

Related Post: Read how meditation can help release endorphins and decrease cortisol.

Reason 2 – Would It Actually Work?

So the answer seems to be yes and no. Firstly, of course each person is different and so results would vary by individual.

Generally, anti-anxiety medication helps people manage their symptoms but as makes a lot of sense it treats the symptom and not the root cause so won’t be a cure. 

Therefore, if you were hoping for a quick fix, it seems like there is no way around doing the work and discovering and alleviating the root causes of your anxiety.

However, it seems like alleviating the symptoms to give you the head space to do the work on combating the cause of your anxiety is a good idea.

Reason 3 – Would It Improve My Sleep?

The anti-anxiety medication that is used for insomnia are benzodiazepines. These are extremely addictive and so you wouldn’t typically be prescribed these for longer than four weeks and not unless you had extreme insomnia.

Sounds like I would not be prescribed these, given my insomnia is not severe but maybe the general calming influence of the drugs would help me to sleep better?

3 Reasons Not To Start Taking Medication for Stress

Reason 1 – Will It Impact My Work?

Will I feel foggy or zombie like and how will that impact my work? Will this not just make things worse?

While there can be a period required to ensure that the medications are appropriate and effective for you it seems that if working properly they should make you feeler clearer rather than more foggy since the anxiety can create brain fog and good medication should clear this.

This was a big worry for me and I am still nervous about the time it would take to feel right for me and the tinkering it would require but thinking more clearly definitely sounds appealing.

Reason 2 – Are There Long Term Effects?

Well, there’s not point sugar coating this when you google these drugs there is a long list of potential side effects that are intimidating to say the least.

However, I think this one is perhaps where you have to trust your doctor and that they would only prescribe you any drug, with the associated risks if they view the benefits to outweigh the risks.

Nevertheless, if you have anxiety you may not want to spend too long perusing the list of potential ailments these drugs may cause, definitely not something you want to be taking if you can help it!

Reason 3 – Will I Still Be Me?

If I’m taking drugs that change my brain chemistry will I still be me? So based on my reassurance and a certain internet based Dr Cox, these drugs shouldn’t change me but instead make me more me (given I don’t yet identify so strongly with my anxiety as to see it as part of my personality).

Again, this is a bit of a relief although I think with drugs it’s hard to tell the impact until you actually take them.

My Plan + What I’ve Tried So Far

Some pros, some cons and no obvious outcome. I have decided to take a bit more time and try some more hollistic treatment before moving on to more extreme measures.

I have tried this in the past, upping the meditation and yoga, but part of the problem is that when I feel stressed and busy I often feel like I don’t have the time and I just need to focus on meeting my work targets after which I will feel less stressed.

Related Post: Does Meditation Make You Happier? The Truth Revealed.

Now this is a terrible catch 22 type process that typically results in increasing my stress levels. As such, I thought keeping this blog would hold me accountable for my actions as well as which hopefully provide inspiration to others out there.

Surely I can’t be the only one with a demanding job who feels overwhelmed and struggles under the pressure?

Perhaps some of you reading are just thinking, but why don’t you just change jobs? While I do think about this at times, and how much easier my life would be I don’t want my mental health challenges to limit my ambition or my potential.

So, dear readers, I am going to set myself up for success and start small in week one by committing to the following three actions:

  1. I’m going to do a daily meditation each morning, following along with the Quiet the Mind meditation course.
  2. I’m going to take more space during the day to breathe, using the “Stepping back” technique (taking some deep breaths to recentre myself).
  3. I’m going to repeat a simple daily mantra, as suggested in month 1 of Happiness University.

I will report back next week with my progress!

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