Anxiety as an emotional state is an natural occurrence and something that an individual should expect to experience on a relatively regular basis throughout his or her life. Constant daily anxiety symptoms pertaining to the most trivial affairs and relentless rumination should not be accepted as a normal occurrence.
In cases like these it’s advised that the individual seek out professional treatment which usually involves medication.
But what if an individual still suffers from anxiety symptoms even when on medications like benzodiazepines or SSRI’s? What steps should an individual take if this is the case? In this article we will cover why this happens and how cope with this residual anxiety.
The Cause of Anxiety Symptoms Even When on Medication
Effectively managing your anxiety in a way that’s personalized for you can be a confusing pursuit which is why it’s important to make sense of any variables that you can.
Variables in this context are simply the factors that are allowing your symptoms to “breakthrough” despite taking an anxiety based medication.
Below are the most common causes of residual symptoms while on medication.
Medication can do wonders in terms acting as a tool to cope with anxiety symptoms but finding the right medication for you can be a tricky process. SSRI’s are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders but not all types will work well for all individuals. It’s simply not a one sized fits all approach.
Some popular SSRI’s indicated for anxiety disorders include Zoloft, Lexapro, and Prozac.
A common cause of a flare up of symptoms when on medication like an SSRI is the initial ramp up period. This is the time when a medication is working up to a steady level in the bloodstream in order to reach a therapeutic level (a level that will actually work to one’s benefit).
This ramp up period can subject an individual to additional anxiety but it is important to note that this should go away once a therapeutic level has been reached. How long does it take to reach a therapeutic level? It usually takes a few weeks for SSRI’s to produce their desired effect.
Drugs like benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, etc.) on the other hand work almost immediately although you should only rely on this class of medications on an as needed basis.
This class of medication is highly addictive and leaves an individual prone to dependency.
Not only is there a chance for additional anxiety and other side effects when first titrating up but there is also a very good chance that you won’t feel any anxiety relief at all during this period. As mentioned previously this period of time is meant to achieve a therapeutic dosage so you shouldn’t expect to feel any benefits before it has been reached.
Try to exercise patience, voice any concerns to your doctor or psychiatrist, and follow any advice given. Successful anxiety treatment and management is a marathon and not a sprint so by expecting instantaneous results you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
When undergoing treatment that consists solely of a medication regimen it is still likely for your anxiety to rear its ugly head or “breakthrough”. Breakthrough anxiety is anxiety that shows disregard for your medications clinical benefits and takes your symptoms and baseline to a level not usually experienced.
You may feel relatively calm and only mild anxiety symptoms that are very manageable while on medication but still suffer from these breakthrough symptoms on a regular basis.
What does this mean? This means that you should reevaluate your treatment approach as a whole and consult your psychiatrist or doctor about how to introduce techniques in addition to taking medication. We’ll discuss which coping techniques to consider in the section titled “How to Cope with Residual Anxiety”.
The Wrong Fit
The reason for your anxiety symptoms even when on medication could also simply be due to the fact that the medication you are currently on just isn’t the right fit for you.
We mentioned to be patient when just starting a drug like an SSRI but if you’ve been taking a medication for a few months and you aren’t happy with the results it may be time to change things up and/or add a new medication.
By doing this in addition to introducing other treatment options you’ll have a much better chance at reducing your anxiety than by sucking it up and sticking with the drug you are on. You’ll want to convey your unease to your psychiatrist and be specific concerning which symptoms are bothering you the most.
Progress on this front can only be attained if you are completely open with your psychiatrist. Make sure to jot down your troubles on a piece of paper or in a smartphone app so that you don’t forget something during your appointment. It’s very easy to forget a thing or two when relying on memory especially since an appointment can drum up anxiety which leads to a lack of focus and scattered memory.
How to Cope with Residual Anxiety
So you’ve come to realize that one or more of the reasons covered above are the culprit concerning residual anxiety on medication. Now what? It’s great to know a cause but without a solution it’s somewhat useless.
Below we will guide you through solutions tailored to each of the problems above.
Approaches Not to Be Dismissed
The first solution to residual anxiety encompasses several approaches of coping – that is, alternative anxiety treatment. These coping techniques are alternative in the sense that they do not involve medication.
Alternative approaches to anxiety are sometimes referred to as natural or holistic but the only identifier that really matters is that they don’t involve drugs. Four very popular and effective alternatives include talk therapy, exercise, mindfulness, yoga.
More of our anxiety content you might be interested in:
- Read our in depth look at treatment options that don’t involve medication
These approaches can be particularly helpful when it comes to breakthrough anxiety.
Using one or several of these options to your benefit can absolutely help take care of any anxiety while on medication. These are things you need to pursue because if you have a true anxiety disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder then your anxiety will most likely stick with you for the rest of your life.
You need to learn how to live with your anxiety and cope with it so that it stays at a manageable level, a level that will not impede on your quality of life.
Talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy is especially resourceful when it comes to finding the root cause of your anxiety issues and subsequently resolving and coping in an incredibly effective manner.
Dealing with anxiety is about coping in a way that allows you to live your life and methods such as these can bring you one step closer to doing so.
Medications that Work
The two issues discussed above related to medication can be resolved with patience and a strong relationship with your psychiatrist. You will also want to act on the alternatives discussed in the previous section, specifically talk therapy.
Non-medication based techniques should always be included in your treatment plan for the best results.
Finding the right medication(s) is always going to be a matter of trial and error which is why patience and a relationship with your psychiatrist forged on trust and open dialogue are so important.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always an enjoyable process but truth be told when you do find the right medication(s) you will see that the struggle was worth it.
Anxiety disorders will always require an individual to be two steps ahead of the affliction. There are quirks that can pop up from time to time such as anxiety bleeding through even while on medication, but one thing remains constant; a multi-faceted treatment plan will always provide the most benefit and anxiety relief.
If you can work with your psychiatrist to incorporate medication alternatives then you will put yourself far ahead of the pack. It is all too common for individuals with anxiety (and any other mental health problems) to take medication and leave it at that.
True relief and quality of life requires due diligence, hard work, and legitimate coping techniques.