An Issue of Anxiety Treatment
Anxiety is the most common of all mental disorders- it affects 40 million Americans over the age of 18 (ADAA). Anxiety is not only occurring locally but also globally. It can affect anyone no matter the culture or environment- It is an international conflict. Around 10% of individuals in North America, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand struggle with clinical anxiety: Another 8% are affected in the Middle East and 6% in Asia (Futurity). Although this is a growing conflict in our society, many individuals do not receive treatment. Around 36.9% of individuals are not receiving treatment (ADAA). This is due to the debate between the two main forms of treatment, therapy and medication. On one hand, many argue that therapy is highly effective; it helps the patient develop better coping and problem-solving skills; the benefits are long term, but the treatment is short term. On the other hand, many believe that medication is safe and effective and that there is a variety of medications to choose from. This controversy leads to the question: What is the best form of treatment when dealing with anxiety?
For starters, different types of talk therapy can be used on the patient struggling with anxiety: The most known one is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. CBT is a type of talk therapy that teaches patients how to confront and deal with their fears. This form of treatment can be used on adolescents and adults. A study was conducted that showed the effectiveness of CBT on patients. They studied eleven different cases and compared the response rates between CBT and other treatments. CBT was found to have the highest response rates in almost all the cases except one (Springer Link). Another study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, was conducted to show the effectiveness of CBT on children. This experiment used 78 children ages 8-12, that had been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. The study lasted twelve weeks and included group therapy/individual CBT (both had the parents involved). This study showed that children with anxiety experienced lower levels of anxiety when being treated with CBT. Although the United States uses CBT to treat anxiety, it is not the only location using it.
Additionally, while CBT has been proven to be effective, it also helps the patient develop better coping and problem-solving skills. According to Therapist Aid, “CBT works by identifying and addressing how a person’s thoughts and behaviors interact to create anxiety.” The therapist has to find the root of the negative thoughts and help teach the patient how to cope with the problem. By using CBT, the patient will be able to develop better problem-solving skills.
Furthermore, CBT lasts from twelve to sixteen weeks, but the benefits have been proven to be long term. One study showed the long-term benefits that were linked with CBT. It used fifty-two patients, all ages fourteen through twenty-one. These individuals have completed treatment around six years ago. They all underwent testing to see if any of them were suffering from any type of anxiety disorder. The results showed that 85.6% of the individuals were no longer dealing with this mental illness after undergoing CBT treatment several years back.
While some believe that therapy is the best form of treatment for individuals with anxiety, others believe that medication is better. Most medications prescribed to individuals with anxiety have been proven to be safe. The preferred medication to treat anxiety are Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs. This drug increases the level of serotonin in the brain which leads to decreased levels of anxiety; However, these drugs take four to six weeks to begin working and can cause the patience to experience worse anxiety symptoms for the first two weeks of consumption. The FDA has approved this medication in October 2014 for children ages seven to seventeen for generalized anxiety disorders. The FDA also approved three different types of SSRIs – Paxil, Zoloft, and Luvox for treating social anxiety disorder. These drugs are non- addictive, but they do have a couple side effects; Some side effects include sleeping problems, sexual dysfunction, rashes, headaches, nausea, anxiety, and eating problems. One major side effect that can be experience when taking this drug is suicidal behavior/ thoughts; This side effect although not common, needs to be monitored. Another factor that needs to be monitored is the consumption of the medication; If there is a sudden stop then the patient can go into withdrawal.
Although SSRIs are widely common and used to help treat anxiety, medical marijuana has also been used as a supplement for SSRIs. The two main components found in medical marijuana is cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); CBD binds to the receptors in the brain and reduces the level of anxiety felt without making people feel high; THC also binds to the receptors in the brain and stimulates the release of dopamine which causes the “high” feeling. A study published by the Department of Neurosciences and Behavior, Division of Psychiatry wanted to study the usage of CBD being related to social anxiety. The study consisted of individuals taking CBD or placebo orally; The results showed that CBD decreased the anxiety present in the individuals.
Thus, I believe that the best form of treatment is including CBT with medication. Prior to research, I believed that only medication should be used, since it numbs the symptoms that come along with anxiety. My opinion was swayed after I heard a podcast from Lauren Slater. In this podcast she explains her experience with antidepressants and other drugs. She explains how medication did not benefit her at all. Medication for her only made everything much worse. While this podcast had me thinking CBT was the only good treatment, other websites also explained the benefits of including both CBT and medication. One source that demonstrated both sides of the argument the Anxiety and Depression Association of America- was found to be a little biased and this weakened the credibility. The credibility was also weakened because the article did not demonstrate the specific author and date the article was written. While it illustrated the pros and cons of using medication, it only showed the pros of using therapy. Although this article doesn’t show a specific date or author, a direct quote from the website helps boost their credibility on the information present, “The ADAA members are psychiatrists, psychologists, neuroscientists, researchers, nurses, social workers, therapists, and more.” This quote can be found on their page under the “who we are” tab. Combining both of these treatments together would make a huge difference; CBT will allow the individual to deal with their anxiety by talking through it and medication will restrict the symptoms of this illness when the individual is feeling extremely anxious. Although this topic is widely discussed about in our society, it differs from culture to culture. For some individuals, like Asians in North America it was found that they delay treatment more than individuals from other countries (verywellmind.com). Due to the fact that anxiety is caused by a variety of factors, individuals should try and see which form of treatment works for them. My proposed solution is to include both CBT and medication.
Although this solution might work for someone in the United States, it might not work for someone in India. Since anxiety is a topic that is interchanging in our society, further research is expected from this topic; Professionals should seek out other types of talk therapy that can benefit the individual being treated; Another type of drug that treats anxiety should be developed and it should have less risky side effects; Medical Marijuana needs to approved in several countries for usage. In the near future studies based on the different cultures struggling with anxiety should also be put to the test