If you have anxiety, then you've probably considered taking anti-anxiety medication at one point or another. While it's an obvious — and entirely beneficial — choice for some, other people need some time to weigh the pros and cons. And that's OK.
In fact, it's smart to do so, if you can, since signing up for pills can be a pretty big deal. "Anxiety medications are very effective, however they are also extremely addictive and difficult to stop taking," psychologist Dr. Michele Barton, of Psychology Life Well, tells Bustle. If you can meet with a therapist and try out some coping skills first, that's your best bet.
But, don't feel ashamed if it doesn't work. It's totally OK to take an anti-anxiety medication. And, when used correctly, they're very safe. "If needed anxiety medications are not very detrimental to your health as long as institutions are followed and taken as prescribed," Barton says. Taking them as directed will help you avoid any side effects. Plus, if you combine them with therapy and a healthy lifestyle, all the benefits can far outweigh the negatives.
Here are some signs it may be time to add anti-anxiety medication to your treatment plan, all in the name of feeling better.
1. You've Been Feeling It Physically
Anxiety can truly take a toll on your physical health, often causing all sorts of painful and annoying symptoms. Think along the lines of nausea, stomachaches, headaches, and even heart palpitations. When it reaches this level, psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow recommends thinking about medication. If you find the right treatment, it can offer some much-needed relief.
2. It's Affecting Your Ability To Function
If you can no longer make it to work or school due your anxiety, or if you've been canceling plans with friends, take note. As Klapow says, "someone who is having a hard time with their day-to-day activities (sleep, work, interacting with others, parenting)," should consider medication. It — along with therapy and taking great care of yourself — can help get you back on your feet and feeling functional again.
3. You're Up Every Night With Racing Thoughts
Sleep is such an important part of anxiety management, so it's not something you want to miss out on. If you're lying awake at night with racing thoughts, definitely ask your doctor about treatment options. Anti-anxiety medication may be just what you need to get a good night's rest, and hopefully better cope with your symptoms.
4. You Can No Longer Concentrate
If you feel like your brain is scattered due to your anxiety, medication can help. "Concentration difficulties happen when anxiety is present," psychologist Dr. Christopher Barnes, LP tells Bustle. "If you think about it, if most of your cognitive energy is going towards worry [or] overthinking, ... you have less energy to actually focus on things." And that's not something you have to deal with.
5. You Can't Control Your Anger
Anxiety often causes uncontrollable anger, which can be a difficult emotion to deal with. As Barnes tells me, you might feel furious with everyone, for no particular reason. And since this can spiral out of control — and damage your relationships — it's important to seek some form of treatment.
6. People Are Distancing Themselves From You
It's not cool of friends and family to distance themselves when you're clearly struggling, but it can happen. And, if anything, it's an indicator that you need to get help. "If you're noticing people distancing themselves from you, you might want to ... assess what is going on in your head," Barnes says. Meet with a therapist, and see if they recommend an anti-anxiety medication.
7. You're Having Trouble Leaving Home
Depending on what type of anxiety you have, you mind find yourself feeling too worried to leave the house. "If the world outside of your walls is scary/anxiety-provoking/overwhelming, you may feel a tendency to stay where you are 'safe,'" Barnes says. And yet, just like everything else, this can spiral out of control. It's a good idea to get help before you get even more stuck.
8. Therapy Hasn't Had A Lasting Impact
As Klapow tells me, you should look into medication if you're already working with a therapist to manage your anxiety, but still seem to be struggling. This is when the dual treatment of therapy/medication can come in handy. So don't be afraid to ask.
9. You Just Need A Break
It's OK to take medication as a way of giving your mind a break, while also allowing the chance to your thoughts patterns. "Medication can be helpful to take the edge off and make life more manageable," says NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. "This will allow you to develop healthy coping skills to deal better with your anxiety."
10. You've Started Having Problems At Work
As Hershenson says, "It is a problem when your anxiety begins taking a toll on your mental and physical health, affecting work and relationships." This means your anxiety is likely getting out of control and going beyond the "normal" anxiety we all feel every day. So, are you having trouble making it through a work day? Or are you too nervous to travel on business trips? Take these as signs.
11. You Feel Exhausted All The Time
As Barton says, "Anxiety is extremely exhausting. It is not uncommon for individuals to feel very tired and depleted." It can get so bad that you might even think you have depression, even though that's the not the case.
Whether your anxiety feels debilitating, or it's simply holding you back, definitely consider medication as another way to feel better. It shouldn't be your first choice, or the only treatment you use — especially since it can come with its own set of problems. But remember medication is out there, should you need it.
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