Is Relief Just a Swallow Away?

Is Relief Just a Swallow Away?

Guidelines for Using Drugs in Anxiety Treatments

By Margaret Wehrenberg

November/December 2003

A blizzard of TV and magazine advertising has given millions of people the impression that anxiety is as easily relieved as heartburn--just take a pill! Primary-care physicians, and even many psychiatrists, tend to take this tack as well, automatically prescribing medications for anxiety without suggesting therapy. Why bother with therapy? Medications deliver peace of mind without the added hassle.

Anxiety is a catchall term applied to a host of conditions requiring different therapy approaches. Medications can be helpful, even necessary, for some cases--but certainly not for all. Therapy without medications is often a better option, and therapy combined with the judicious, tactical, and temporary use of medications may be the best alternative of all.

But how does a therapist decide whether to use therapy, medications, or a combination of both? How can a clinician determine whether the long-term use of medications might actually prevent a client from learning to conquer anxiety? The answer lies in recognizing the distinctions between different forms of anxiety and carefully assessing the client's own history to determine what kind or combination of anxieties he or she experiences. The following are keys to recognizing and treating some of the most typical types of anxiety disorder:


Of all the anxiety

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