• Theo

Anxiety Medication - My Experience

If you suffer from anxiety, then you know how tough it can be. The worst thing is, there is no quick fix. Medication however, gives you the illusion that there is. What if taking one pill can make it all better? I wouldn’t be restricted in life and I could be happy again. The sad truth, is it doesn’t really work like that.

Assorted pills
Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

There are a number of drugs available (both legal and illegal) that are meant to help with anxiety. Either they stop you suffering from it or they make it easier to deal with. I have tried a few things (of the legal kind) in my time but nothing really worked. I heard so many positive things from people that I couldn’t wait to try things. I didn’t hear many truths about it though. So I thought I’d share mine in the hopes to help other people that are in a similar situation to mine.

The first thing I tried was “Rescue Remedy”. It is a liquid substance made from five flower essences that work together to relieve anxiety/stress. A family member recommended it, saying that it helped them with anxiety. They recommended it because my anxiety started showing with exams and Rescue Remedy helped them through it. Although I was quite certain that I wasn't nervous about the actual exam, I thought it’d still be amazing if this got me through it. Sadly, it didn’t really have an effect on me. I tried for a while but it didn’t make anything easier.

The second thing I tried was “Kalms”. I saw an advert for it on TV and decided to give it a go. It is mostly supposed to help with stress not so much anxiety. However, anxiety is usually derived from stress so you can see why I gave it a go. You are supposed to take them for some time consistently in order to see an effect and I did so. Sadly, once again, it made no difference. In all honesty, I didn’t try for a long period of time but I did take them long enough that they should have an effect. Maybe they would work if my anxiety wasn’t so severe but who knows.

Those two things I tried when I first got diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. They could be bought in a shop meaning they weren’t dangerous but once they didn’t work, I became desperate to try some prescription medication to just get rid of it but my GP wouldn’t allow it because of my age. It turns out for good reason but I’ll get to that. He did however say I could try Propranolol.

What is Propranolol?

Propranolol is a beta blocker that is used to treat a variety of things, one being anxiety.

How does Propranolol work?

It works by slowing down your heart rate, which in theory should make you feel less anxious. If taken by mouth, it takes about 30 minutes to kick in and can last a maximum of 60 to 90 minutes.

It didn’t really help me a lot but I still continued to use it in case I would be worse without it. With anxiety, it was difficult for me to recognise why I would be less anxious in a situation, was it the medication or was it something else? After a while, I stopped taking it and would only have it with me just in case. To this day, I sometimes keep them handy for times when I feel I need a little extra help. They don’t make the anxiety go away, but at times, they can make it more bearable.

For a while, that was the only medication I took, mostly because of my age. However, once I started university, I really struggled with staying in classes. I had support workers, and different things to help me out. I also had a mental health adviser.

During the middle of my first term at university, my mental health adviser at the university suggested that I start taking a particular medication to make life a little easier. She suggested I take Citalopram so I went back to my GP and asked for it. This time, they gave it to me (although it wasn’t my usual GP).

What is Citalopram?

Citalopram is an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) typically used as an antidepressant.

How does Citalopram work?

It is supposed to increase the levels of serotonin which is believed to increase happiness. It takes 4 to 6 weeks to feel the effects.

This is something I was actually happy about taking. I was excited to finally have a serious chance to get over my anxiety and just lead a normal life. Sadly that wasn’t the case. I started on the 10mg dose which was then increased to 20mg. After a few weeks on 20mg a day, I didn’t notice any difference in my anxiety. I was still struggling with the same amount of anxiety as before. I went back to my GP and they increased it to 40mg a day. After a couple of weeks I started to feel really tired and low. Anxiety was affecting me but not as much. The thing was, I just didn’t have the motivation to do anything. Then I was diagnosed with depression…

I genuinely believe that the Citalopram caused the depression. My mental health adviser told me that isn’t possible, but I disagree. I have never suffered from depression before then and I haven’t suffered with it since.

It was the worst time of my life so I decided to come off it. I shouldn’t have done it the way I did, but I don’t regret it. It was like flood gates coming down and all the suppressed emotions came pouring out. That took a lot of time to work though and a strong support network but it was the best decision I ever made. I started to feel like myself again. The funny thing is though, I barely have any recollection of that time of my life. People tell me about things that I remember nothing about. The other interesting thing is certain people around me started taking Citalopram, and they exhibited similar behaviour to myself. I’m aware that prescription drugs are thoroughly tested, but it wouldn’t be the first time that things go unnoticed in the world of medicine.

As you can see, my experiences aren’t particularly positive. It was clear that medication wasn’t the answer for me. It may seem like a good option at the time but it’s unlikely to solve the problem, and in fact, can make things a lot worse.

There are a number of other tools you can equip yourself with that won’t alter your personality but will help you cope with anxiety. Getting over anxiety is a long process so just be patient with yourself and take each day as it comes.

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