Isaac Asimov accurately summarized the plight of society when he stated, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
Science and technology have made the world a relatively easy place for us to live in; advancements in the field of medicine have enabled us to decode symptoms and ameliorate our ailments. Cancer can be treated, holes in the heart can be closed without surgery, smallpox has been eradicated, and vaccines can facilitate prevention of diseases. The world of science, as stated by Isaac Asimov, has made tremendous progress for the betterment of humans lives. However, why do we hesitate to utilize these developments to maintain our mental health? Or to alleviate our anxiety?
Understanding anxiety and the changes it can cause in our bodies may contribute to our decisions on how to curtail it. Mia Lundin, a nurse practitioner and an international leader in her field, explained that anxiety could be an outcome of deteriorations or deficiencies in the body. Chronic stress, which causes depletion of stress hormones in the adrenal glands, could be one. When the adrenal glands become fatigued, stress hormones become imbalanced, resulting in possible anxiety or panic attacks. On the other hand, higher or lower levels of important neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and GABA, respectively, could also lead to anxiety disorders (Lundin). Recognizing that science can offer us answers that may otherwise seem inexplicable may help us be more willing to accept support.
The ideology that science adds a valuable choice to the process of healing ourselves is not shared by everybody. Recently, a Twitter account called ‘Team Not Ashamed’ started a movement called ‘#imnotashamed’ advocating that people should regulate the biochemicals in their brains naturally by living a healthy life, and that drugs make people “artificially happy.” This evoked a strong reaction in Nicole Campbell, who has been struggling with generalised anxiety for 10 years. She wrote an article addressing the team titled: ‘To the Person Who Called Me a ‘Drug User’ for Taking Anti-Anxiety Medication.’ She explained that the hearsay surrounding anxiety medication about the negative impact of its side-effects could leave people who wish to try it feeling skeptical: “I understand the negative place you’re coming from. When I was first diagnosed and treated, it was a guessing game. I tried medication after medication. Moved from one therapist to another. Had to deal with my diagnosis changing faster than I changed my gym clothes. Many of the medications prescribed weren’t right for me. Some aggravated my migraines, made me a zombie and some just didn’t work at all. But I was no longer suffering as much as I had been.”
Paxil and Zoloft, two of the more popular anti-anxiety medications, improve moods (Folk and Folk, 2015). They may have side-effects such as insomnia or sleepiness, sexual dysfunction, and/or weight gain. However, despite the symptoms, they are considered an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. Another class of common drugs include Xanax and Valium which reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. Increased doses may be required to achieve the same effect over time (ADAA), but they are considered efficient in easing muscles tension caused by anxiety.
In October 2015, Erin Jones posted a photograph of herself holding her prescriptions on Facebook to mark her return to her treatment. She said, “I have tried living this life without prescription help. It seems to have me on top of the world one minute and rocking in the corner the next. There is no consistency. I’m done with that. Anxiety and antidepressant medication to the rescue.” This inspired many others to share their stories of anxiety medication using the hashtag ‘#MedicatedAndMighty’. It also encouraged people who had been silent and afraid of psychiatric medications to reach out. Amelia Bienstock tweeted about her experience, “Became depressed a year ago. Cried everyday till August. Wish I’d gone on meds sooner. That was terrifying for me to post but if it helps anyone it was worth it. #MedicatedAndMighty #EndtheStigma”
Jones was thanked by people all over the world for opening up a conversation about mental health and medication. In an interview following this incident, she said, “It’s as if all these people were just waiting for someone to say, ‘It’s okay to take care of yourself.’”
It is this barrier that we must overcome. Most prescribed medicines have side-effects (Conger). Things that help us usually come with a price tag or a set of consequences. Anxiety medications do too. It can be difficult to find the right medication, just like it can be hard to find the right therapist. Once found, further hassles can crop up. But the knowledge that something can help may make the path ahead look a little brighter–anxiety medications can be that ray of hope for some people. Reducing symptoms that cause extreme distress to a person could open up new avenues for them, and possibly metamorphose their perspectives.
Lundin, M. (n.d.). Anxiety: What is it? What causes it? How Can You Feel Better? – Mia Lundin. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://mialundin.com/anxiety-what-is-it-what-causes-it-how-can-you-feel-better/
Ending the Stigma of Psychiatric Medication. (2016, August 26). Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/blog/medicatedandmighty-ending-the-stigma-of-psychiatric-medication/
Folk, J. (n.d.). Anxiety Disorder General Statistics. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-statistics-information.shtml
Campbell, N., & Schuster, S. (n.d.). To the Person Who Called Me a ‘Drug User’ for Taking Anti-Anxiety Medication. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://themighty.com/2016/02/to-the-person-who-called-me-a-drug-user-for-taking-anti-anxiety-medicati0n/
Medication. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://www.adaa.org/finding-help/treatment/medication
Conger, K. (1970, March 14). Scientists discover multitude of drug side effects, interactions using new computer algorithm. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2012/03/scientists-discover-multitude-of-drug-side-effects-interactions-using-new-computer-algorithm.html