Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is Better Than Xanax

Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is Better Than Xanax

Do you find in times of stress that your first thought is “Where are my pills?” Or perhaps you’re just tired of taking pill after pill after pill.

If you struggle with anxiety, frequent worry, panic attacks, or severe stress, odds are good you’ve had someone (either friend, family, or physician) offer you Xanax at some point in your life. They do this with the best of intentions, mind you—to make your anxiety, go away and to help you relax.

In the short-term, Xanax is pretty effective in that regard. In the long-term, it may leave something to be desired.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is an anxiety medication that is part of a family of medications known as benzodiazepines. Other types of benzodiazepines include Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, and their generic versions Clonazepam, Lorazepam, and Alprazolam. These medications have been around for decades and are most commonly prescribed to those who suffer from anxiety or have experienced a recent trauma.

If you take one of these medications daily, it’s common to develop a tolerance to it—meaning it has less of an effect than it used to. Often times, many people who recognize that their previous dose no longer does the trick to cut their anxiety down will slowly start to increase the amount they take in order to keep their anxiety symptoms under control. Over time, however, this leads to developing a physical dependence on the medication thus leaving you with the problem of daily high doses of medication, physical dependence, and STILL feeling your anxiety.

Signs of physical dependence include:

  • Physical signs of withdrawal (i.e. increased physiological symptoms of anxiety such as increased heart rate, tension, sweating, shallow breathing, or shaking)
  • Emotional or mental signs of withdrawal (i.e. increased feelings of worry, nervousness, or panic, and anxious or racing thoughts)
  • Serious physical conditions such as tremors or seizures
  • Feeling compelled to keep taking the medication
  • Maybe this isn’t as bad as I think it is and I’m making something out of nothing
  • Taking more than prescribed, more than you meant to, or in combination with other dangerous drugs such as alcohol

IMPORTANT: If you regularly take medication for anxiety or depression, it is important that you do not stop taking your medication without first consulting with your doctor. Doing so can lead to very serious health risks.

Research has shown that while medications like Xanax are effective at suppressing anxiety short-term, they ultimately don’t address the underlying problems that may be causing the anxiety. Thus, the second you stop taking it, the anxiety often comes right back.

Why is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Different?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common types of therapy used to treat anxiety and depression and has been ever since it became well known as far back as the 1960’s. CBT is known as one of the first forms of therapy that was proven effective by research when compared to other forms of talk therapy. This means, research has shown that when CBT treatment is delivered correctly, it can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Studies have shown that when cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat anxiety or depression, the benefit is two-fold.

First, CBT helps you to learn about what is causing and maintaining your anxiety or depression. You then can begin to understand the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms you’re experiencing as part of your anxiety or depression and how these are triggered by various situations. Once you’ve got a handle on that, CBT can help you:

  • Learn to “argue back” against your anxious or depressing thoughts
  • Learn to identify a new perspective that is both balanced and realistic (not unrealistically positive or negative) and that does not cause you to feel unnecessarily anxious or depressed
  • Experience situations that will test your new perspective so that you can have faith in it and feel more self-assured moving forward
  • Learn to change your reactions in stressful or troubling situations to create a different outcome

Second, (and this is the most important part here) you can maintain these changes long after you’ve finished with therapy. After successfully completing cognitive behavioral therapy, you have the ability to keep using the techniques learned in therapy for the rest of your life. This means that in a situation that previously would have triggered intense anxiety or depression, you will already have the ability to find another way to look at the situation and react to it differently. Odds are, over time, you’ll no longer even have to make the conscious effort to use these techniques as your core beliefs and automatic reactions will slowly change as well.

Studies have shown that after successfully completing cognitive behavioral therapy, your risk of anxiety or depression returning is significantly reduced. This means that over the long term, you’re less likely to experience another significant episode of anxiety or depression, that if it does return it will likely be shorter and less intense, and that over time it will have less and less effect on your ability to function in your daily life.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing anxiety or depression, it is important to address these issues with the help of a trained mental health professional. Please contact us for more information on cognitive behavioral therapy or how to coordinate with your doctor about getting off your anxiety medication and beginning therapy. If you’re interested in cognitive behavioral therapy in Orlando, or to make an appointment to begin treatment for anxiety or depression, please give us a call at (407) 603-6132.

Disclaimer: The information above is intended as general information and does not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about your medications, side effects, or dosing please contact your physician.

Enduring Effects for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety.Steven D. Hollon, Michael O. Stewart, and Daniel Strunk. Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 57: 285-315.

We’re here to help.

If you or someone you know is struggling due to anxiety, depression, or trauma – and would like to know more about CBT or how to get started, please reach out. We offer cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and depression, in Orlando and online, with trained CBT therapists.

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