New: ON MENTAL ILLNESS:Anxiety Revisted, Again

By Jack Bragen
Friday December 07, 2012 - 05:01:00 PM

Anxiety attacks are common for people with a major mental illness including when not part of the diagnosis. Some people with mental illness believe that they have a mixture of mental illnesses, e.g.; a little bit of everything. Their symptoms do not fit neatly into one or two categories. This is not uncommon and it may be related to being medicated. Anxiety can put a damper into a person's activities. If it is allowed to, anxiety will quickly grow into a giant specter and will take over large parts of a person's life. Anxiety seems to feed on its own energy. 

A pet cat or dog can be helpful. I had a cat for fifteen years that would sit on my chest and would take away my discomfort. After he passed away I began to feel anxiety on a daily basis at a consistent time of day. 

Meditation can be helpful but not always. Sometimes the body will produce anxiousness despite almost any meditative effort to alleviate it. However, I doubt that there are very many Zen masters who get anxiety attacks. If they do, they are not telling us about it. 

Anxiety can be caused by phobias. In this instance, it is possible to move through the anxiety, get to the other side of it, and eliminate the phobia. Anxiety in which the cause has not been identified is harder to deal with. 

Unlike with anxiety, you can't move through psychosis and fix it by getting to the other side. The "other side" of psychosis is just more psychosis. It is caused by a major malfunction of the brain often requiring physical intervention, as in medication. 

Unlike with psychosis (which seems to be a pretty clear situation) attempts to treat anxiety through medication may have mixed results. If anxiety is ruining a person's life, and if it isn't resolvable through therapy of some kind, medication may help. Benzodiazepines, such as Clonazepam are often prescribed. However, Benzodiazepines can be habit forming. 

When treating anxiety strictly with medication, a mental health consumer may find that in order to take enough medication to wipe out the anxiety, they must put up with a tremendous amount of sedation. I tried Clonazepam as a treatment for my recurrent anxiety, and it didn't agree with me. In fact, my memory of the three days I tried it are kind of blacked out. My wife reported that I did nothing but sleep and that I also had reduced intelligence. I decided it was better to put up with my anxiety than it was to deal with taking Clonazepam. This is not a truth that will apply to all people. Some people may have much better luck taking this drug than I. 

I recently had a lot of anxiety concerning a trip to the Oakland Airport to drop off my wife and to pick her up. The car stalled on the way to the Caldecott Tunnel, and it also hesitated a lot when going uphill. It is a temporary replacement car that I got after my car accident. At some point, on the way to picking up my wife, my anxiety peaked. And then, a moment later, it was gone and I was comfortable. The condition of the vehicle isn't affected by this; it still is not dependable for long distances. However, now I have considerably less anxiety while driving. 

Sometimes, the right kind of therapy seems to deal with anxiety more powerfully than anti-anxiety medication. As a last resort, anxiety can merely be tolerated, and eventually it will usually subside. 

Anxiety attacks, unlike cases of severe psychosis, are often treatable without psychiatric drugs. There is no political or dogmatic approach here-I am simply observing what works and what doesn't work, in different situations.