The Anxiety of Anti-Anxiety Medications
19 million Americans (approximately one in eight) aged 18-54 suffer from anxiety disorders. (1) When I heard this statistic, I realized how important the discussion of such disorders was to the sciences. 1/8th of the most productive portion of the US population suffers from an anxiety disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a division of the Institutes of Health for the Federal Government, is committed to research causes and treatment of such disorders. (2) Progress has been made, comparing studies of animals to studies of humans, in pinpointing the specific areas of the brain. Anxiety is associated with fear- fear of a specific object or situation, generalized fear and worry, recurring fearful memories, etc. The NIMH has found that a specific portion of the brain, the amygdala, controls the body's automatic response to fear. When the brain is confronted with fear, the brain takes two course of action. One, the brain transmits information to the cerebral cortex (the thinking part of the brain) to inform it of what specifically is endangering the individual. Second, the brain transmits to the amygdala the same information, so that the body might prepare for action.
Beyond this information, not much is known regarding the causes or mechanics of anxiety. Granted, understanding which portions of the brain are affected by or control anxiety is an important step. However, not much conclusive evidence or useful conclusions have been reached regarding anxiety.
With this information in mind, I began thinking of my personal experiences with anxiety. On one occasion I went to the emergency room, expressing the inability to breathe and dizziness. It was concluded that I was suffering from an anxiety attack, and was offered Xanax. I refused the medicine until I might better research what I would be taking. Much later, I attended counseling in effort to deal with anxiety issues, and once again was offered anti-anxiety medicines, otherwise known as anxiolytics.
Clearly, regardless of the inconclusive evidence regarding the causes of anxiety, the medical professions are quick to administer medicines when faced with a patient suffering from anxiety. My personal encounters with this are not the only evidence. At Bryn Mawr, through counseling services, I know many students who have received anxiolytics. Of course, there is an evaluation process. Nonetheless, many students are able to receive medication, regardless of the inconclusive evidence of the causes of anxiety. Additionally, the statistic regarding one in every eight adults suffers from anxiety proves true amongst my peers, and in fact, is a significantly greater number. Of my fifteen closest friends, both at school and from home, nine have suffered anxiety attacks, two have received medication for anxiety, and two for depression.
I have several concerns with this issue. Many medicines given to treat anxiety have a plethora of...