I have written about my views on medication in the past but I felt like I should revisit it.
Browsing through panic disorder message boards on the web, it has surprised me how many people are taking multiple medications in order to escape from their panic disorder. I completely understand the thought behind this: They say that a panic attack can be the most frightening experience of a person's entire life. And I can say that it is for mine so far. Even Vietnam war veterans have said they would rather go back to that experience than go through another panic attack. Why would you not want to take a pill and make it all go away? I get that.
One major problem I have is the notion that taking a benzo or SSRI is treating a person's panic disorder. This is wrong. That is like saying that giving pain killers to a person that broke their leg is treating the broken limb. It is not. Yes it alleviates the symptoms, but take away the medication and you are back at square one. The only way to treat panic disorder is to understand the biology behind it and use CBT to retrain your brain to respond differently to your thoughts. I hope that by reading through the rest of this blog you can start to understand why this is the case.
Medication to panic disorder is just a security blanket: Imagine you are on a crowded bus and start to feel panicked so you reach into your purse to grab a pill. But you can't find any. What do you think this will do to your anxiety level? To the severity of your panic attack? Yes, it will be WORSE. Remember, with this disorder you need to show your amygdala that a panic attack is not scary or dangerous. By taking a pill, you are telling it that yes the experience was scary or dangerous so you took a pill to make all of those feelings go away. You are only going to make it harder for yourself when you decide to treat your panic attacks for good.
What bothers me is how many people try the CBT thing and decide "It doesn't work for me". In my opinion, these people were not trained to properly use these techniques, or else they have not spent enough time working hard to learn the techniques. For the first 4 months of my therapy, I thought I was trying, and I thought I was doing everything right. But you know what? Each panic attack scared the hell of out me and I wasn't able to use the skills properly. It takes a LONG TIME to be able to do this. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience. But if you tell me that it "doesn't work for you"....I will just have trouble believing that. If you work hard and honestly give 100% of yourself, it will work. Trust me. Please put down your medication and start actually treating your anxiety disorder!!