Why Benzos Are Not the Answer for Anxiety
Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” as they are frequently called by doctors that prescribe them and the patients that take them, were frequently prescribed in the 90s and early millennium as an anxiety treatment. With the onset of psychopharmacology, benzodiazepine came to be seen as a cure-all for anxiety because they were initially so effective. However, benzo abuse is on the rise and former anxiety sufferers are now benzo-dependent. Moreover, studies emerged about the effects of long-term benzo use that indicated a possibility for adverse effects on cognitive function and overall health. Long-term benzo use has been associated with depression, attention problems, and in some cases, a worsening of anxiety disorders. Even when used in the short-term, benzos are dangerously habit-forming.
Benzos are one of the most common medications in the world, and they are prescribed for everything from chronic, debilitating anxiety to fear of flying. Unlike selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which can take weeks to build up in the body and become effective, benzos work almost immediately. This immediate “fix” is part of what makes benzos so dangerous. Patients begin to associate a state of calm only with the relief that comes after popping a benzo. In the limited number of people on benzos who experience severe addiction, there is a risk of potentially life-threatening withdrawal.
Benzos as a Crutch, not a Cure
Many people who take benzos look to the drug and only the drug for relief. These benzo users and the physicians who enable them are, perhaps unknowingly, failing to deal with the underlying cause of the anxiety by medicating the problem away. That is, rather than addressing the problem and curing the anxiety, benzos are used as a crutch to help the patient limp through life with their anxiety, never fully addressing it, even though the patient can still get around. This use of benzo as a front-line coping mechanism is contributing to the high rates of drug dependency and the low rates of long-term anxiety alleviation among our population. If physicians fail to carefully monitor benzo users, or if they give prescriptions to patients who have addictive tendencies or who refuse to stop drinking while on the medication, it may be harmful to the patient and can most certainly contribute to dependency.
The fact is that the majority of anxiety sufferers could alleviate their anxiety by addressing their low self-esteem. Everyone experiences some feelings of low self-esteem, but cyclical negative thoughts can cause or help cause anxiety. Addressing these anxiety roots is the true way to take control of your life back from your anxiety without using benzodiazepines. While some medication may be a good temporary fix for some severe anxiety cases, benzos are not recommended.
Instead, it is important to understand why your anxiety is affecting you so strongly that it is impairing your life. What happened to you to trigger your anxiety? Is there a way to avoid the things that are triggering your anxious feelings? Identifying, avoiding, and addressing anxiety triggers is the key to overcoming your anxious feelings.
It may be that the anxiety trigger is something in your present, or it could be something from your past. Once you sense your anxiety alarms going off, quickly try to determine why the alarm was tripped. Is it a false alarm, or a real one?
Creating a Sense of Self-Worth
One way that anxiety sufferers can alleviate their own anxiety without medication is to work on creating a sense of self-worth. Anxiety suffers often worry that the world is out to get them, and they use their anxiety to both prepare for and create a world that attacks them again and again. This frequently stems from the fact that anxiety sufferers fear failure or fear disappointing those around them, which leads to low self-esteem and anxious behavior. Because they fear failure, anxiety sufferers often ironically create a world in which everyone is waiting for them to fail, and in which they are waiting for themselves to fail. This near-fetishization of a constant state of success is exhausting and impossible to maintain. At a certain point, anxiety sufferers will fail, because we all do, and they will use that failure as an example that their anxiety is warranted.
In order to stop this cycle, anxiety sufferers must address the underlying fears contributing to their low self-esteem and anxiety. They must build their own sense of value and of worth if they are to overcome their anxiety. This includes those currently on benzos — rather than popping a pill, benzo users must learn coping mechanisms that help them identify, avoid, and address their anxiety triggers. This all starts with building up their self-worth and understanding that they are a person of value in spite of whether they succeed or fail.