Anxiety is something that we, as human beings, occasionally feel in our lives. In fact, a little bit of anxiety here and there can be a good source of motivation. It can also be a natural warning system telling you when not to do something dangerous. Unfortunately, when anxiety goes unchecked it can prevent us from living productive and fulfilling lives, and lead to other health issues. When feelings of fear and worry reach this level, it is referred to as an anxiety disorder. A group of medications that medical professionals may prescribe to treat anxiety is benzodiazepines. Unfortunately, benzodiazepines often only mask the symptoms as opposed to treating the underlying issues. Additionally, they carry a significant risk of addiction. For these reasons, exploring a number of alternatives to benzodiazepines is ideal for treating anxiety.
A good place to start when trying to overcome any degree of anxiety is to look at your lifestyle choices and see where improvements could be made. What can you add, remove, or change from your life that would allow for overall better mental wellbeing? Ironically, one place to start is with your physical well being. Here are a few things you can do to improve your physical health that will also have a positive effect on your mental health:
- Exercise: Physical activities such as running and yoga actually leads to the production of endorphins and create a sense of wellbeing.
- Eat a Nutritious Diet: The food we consume is what provides our body (including the brain) with the nutrients it needs to operate optimally. If you are putting low-quality foods into your body, then your mind and body will operate poorly. Conversely, if you feed yourself with high-quality, nutrient-dense foods, then it will be able to function better and manage emotions such as fear and worry.
- Get Good Sleep: Sleep deprivation can put serious stress on an individual and can actually lead to high levels of anxiety. Also, it’s not just about getting enough sleep, but good sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.
- Practice Mindfulness: Take a few minutes each day to meditate and breathe. Deep breathing and relaxation training are good tools in both preventing and managing anxiety.
Therapy & Counseling
For individuals that are not able to get their anxiety under control with some lifestyle changes, therapy is another alternative to benzodiazepines for treating anxiety. There are a few types of therapy that have been shown to be just as effective as benzos in treating anxiety and depression, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and hypnosis.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: A psychologist or psychiatrist trained in CBT will work with their client to learn how to identify behaviors that spark thoughts and feelings contributing to anxiety. The counselor will then work with the client to develop and practice, alternative behaviors for anxiety-inducing situations that elicit more positive thoughts and feelings.
- Hypnotherapy: A licensed hypnotherapist uses self-hypnosis techniques to tap into a client’s subconscious. Through hypnotherapy, the therapist assists the individual in identifying any limiting beliefs, releasing any fears, and instilling positive affirmations and visualizations to promote mental and physical wellbeing.
For some, anxiety becomes so severe that it is debilitating. Medication can be a helpful option for those who struggle with severe anxiety, and it does not have to be benzos. There are several other groups of medication that have been shown to help in reducing the symptoms of anxiety. Other than benzodiazepines, antidepressants and sedatives are the 2 most common types of medications used to treat anxiety.
- Antidepressants: A safer and equally effective option, antidepressants are a solid option for treating generalized anxiety and panic disorders. SSRI’s such as Zoloft have a much lower risk of dependence than benzos, but a major drawback is that they take about a week before they start to take effect and must be taken regularly in order to maintain it’s effectiveness. For this reason, a patient prescribed an SSRI should be equipped with an alternative method to manage anxiety or panic attacks that may occur during that first week.
- Sedatives: Ramelteon and antihistamines are medications with a sedative effect that have been shown to be effective in treating anxiety as well.
Whether you are an individual who has struggled with addiction or not, it is reasonable not to want to be prescribed addictive medications such as benzodiazepines. However, it is also more than reasonable to want to find a way to overcome anxiety.
Treating Anxiety & Addiction at The Freedom Center
Anxiety and addiction commonly go hand in hand. Whether it is drug use that induces anxiety or anxiety that presents as a withdrawal symptom, begin able to treat it is going to be critical to the recovery process. In order to help clients with their anxiety, we offer a number of alternatives to benzodiazepines. This includes access to CBT trained therapists and our fitness and nutrition program. Managing anxiety is an important factor in a recovering addict’s mental health and overall recovery journey.