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“Not much we can do”: the need for improved anxiety treatments

“I’m afraid there’s not much more we can do.”

I have heard this line so often from doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists during my time suffering with anxiety. They are right: at this point there isn’t much more they can do, given existing medicinal and therapeutic tools. Research is so needed to improve the effectiveness of available treatments for me and others who suffer with severe anxiety: a real life-sucker of a condition.

…racing negative thoughts continuously telling me how weak I am for not being able to stop the panic

As with everyone, my anxiety levels change depending on what is happening in my life and how I feel about it. However, the difference in my case is that it is much easier to become anxious and much harder to stop. I can experience a very high level of everyday anxiety and can also suffer from extended, debilitating panic attacks.

My attacks come when my brain spots a potential threat. They centre on extreme nausea and hyperventilation, with racing negative thoughts continuously telling me how weak I am for not being able to stop the panic. They can last in waves for as long as my brain perceives a threat is present: hours, days, weeks, whatever it takes! So far the worst has been a week during which I was so totally consumed with panic that I couldn’t eat. That ended with a trip to hospital and a morning on a drip to rehydrate.

Facing anxiety as horrible as this, and having tried a number of different approaches, I have recently been forced to turn to medication.

I was not at all keen to do so because the potential side effects of many medicines are terrifying. I was also unwilling to, as I perceived it, interfere with the workings of my brain. However, although I still feel this way to some extent, I recognise that my quality of life has improved thanks to some of the medicines I have taken. I am hugely grateful for the research that has lead to them being available.

That said, we still need to develop better anxiety treatments, especially for those cases where medicine is required.

Some medicines targeted at longer-term use often come with nasty side effects to weather before they take effect, including the possibility that symptoms might get a lot worse before they get better. They then take several weeks to become effective: a comparatively long time. And, finally, they don’t actually work for everyone: you may have gone through all of this for little or no result. In a situation this grim, it is my hope that research will lead to cutting out this lengthy and unpleasant journey by creating or discovering medicines or other treatments that are much more effective and much quicker to work.

More research, leading to improved treatments, can only be a good thing – both now and for the future

Ordinary people are starting to talk more about mental health. In the process it is beginning to lose some of its taboo status, and this is fantastic.

But increased research into anxiety (and other mental health problems about which I know much less) would be a positive step. We now frequently hear in the media that children and young people seem to be increasingly suffering from an array of mental health problems. More research, leading to improved treatments, can only be a good thing – both now and for the future.

The author of this piece is an anxiety sufferer in her mid-twenties from the UK. She wants to use her experience to help others, by sharing information and news about anxiety. Her site is fearandworry.wordpress.com and you can also find her on Twitter @fearandworry.

Last updated: 2 June 2016

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