Around the United States, it’s common to hear about your peers or those close to you that occasionally have bouts of anxiety. There is a significant difference, however, between a few nerves because of a presentation at work rather than dealing with the debilitating symptoms of chronic anxiety. An estimated 19 percent of U.S. adults had an anxiety disorder in the past year according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and 31 percent are said to experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.
Anxiety is the most common mental illness that affects people worldwide, and it can have severe consequences on someone trying to live their life. Once the line has been crossed from stress-induced anxiety to a full-on disorder, many will visit their physicians seeking relief.
To add on to the previously stated statistics, 22 percent of adults interviewed had a severe impairment, while another 33 percent had a moderate impairment. Estimates have shown that 40 million adults 18-54 are currently experiencing symptoms of anxiety that are moderate to severe.
The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders released a report showing that these disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion per year, almost one-third of the $148 billion total mental health bill for the country. Those struggling are three-to-five times more likely to go to the doctor, and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than non-sufferers. It makes sense with how debilitating it can be; for some, they may not be able to leave the comfort of their homes because their emotions hinder them.
The prevalence of anxiety is nothing new in our society; the numbers are inflated because of a growth in population. It has always existed, and it is the reason behind the development of anxiolytic medications to treat those stuck in this cycle. Barbiturate medications were the first of their kind developed over a century ago, but as addiction concerns grew, more advanced drugs were sought out to reduce those becoming addicted.
It wasn’t until 1956 when a chemist known as Dr. Leo Sternbach developed a drug known as Librium. The doctor was successful in creating many drugs we know today such as Valium, Klonopin, and many other similar benzodiazepines. From his discovery, rose a long line of drugs to treat anxiety, among other disorders, that manage an overactive nervous system.
An unintended consequence of these medications was one that was only later found out — it is known as rebound anxiety, or rebound effects as a result of cessation from the drug. For those who choose the proper channel and have their addiction dealt with under the supervision of medical professionals, they can still experience these effects; however, they will be much more severe if you do not seek medical detoxification for your benzodiazepine use.
If you take a medication to treat a crippling anxiety disorder, how can it make your anxiety worse? What is rebound anxiety? These are all the questions that we will delve into below to prepare you for what is to come if you take medication to treat anxiety.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine summarizes rebound anxiety as the relative worsening symptoms on discontinuation of treatment as compared to baseline symptoms – is distinguished from withdrawal. What this means is that rebound is the temporary return of greater anxiety symptoms after withdrawal from the medication than you experience before the prescription. It usually occurs two to three days after a taper and is often caused by too big of a reduction of the drug at one time.
It’s common for a rebound reaction to trigger a relapse as a result.
Between 10 to 35 percent of individuals will experience the rebound of anxiety symptoms, especially panic attacks when they discontinue benzodiazepines too rapidly. A slow tapering of the medication is best, which can lead to fewer withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepine medications are intended for short-term use to cope with some of the most extreme symptoms of anxiety. Tolerance to these drugs can occur in as little as three weeks, and this is the reason doctors will only prescribe smaller doses. It’s possible to experience these withdrawal symptoms for several weeks after abstaining, even when used as prescribed. Those who abuse the medication place themselves in a more difficult situation, and can experience more profound side effects such as hallucinations and seizures.
Not only does someone attempting to abstain from benzos have to deal with nasty and sometimes dangerous withdrawals, but they will also have to grapple with the stress of withdrawal. The anxiety they will face when attempting to manage their lives without medication can be overwhelming. Couple this with the feeling of hopelessness because of the rebound anxiety, and it’s going to be a steep road ahead. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with rebound anxiety.
Quieting an anxious mind can seem next to impossible amid a withdrawal-induced panic. Meditation, however, has the power to calm the most intrusive thoughts. There is no right way to meditate, but there are simple methods to help overcome your anxious mind.
Natural endorphins can help immensely when struggling with withdrawal. It’s easy to allow it to overtake your life and relapse, but you can take control and focus on getting better. While rebound anxiety is intense, it can be conquered with a little guidance. Exercise can also speed up the length of the withdrawal process.
It’s understandable if focusing on exercise makes you exhausted at the thought, and if you are having problems exerting that much physicality, consider a yoga class. The companionship and positivity from those in the class can help relax the mind, and distract you from anxious thoughts.
It’s possible that overcoming rebound anxiety may be impossible on your own, and abrupt cessation of benzodiazepines as we mentioned above can be deadly. The most viable option would be to enter into treatment. The first portion of treatment would place you into a medical detoxification facility, where you will be given access to 24 hours of supervision from medical professionals. The process will last anywhere from three to seven days until you have successfully purged the drugs from your system. Once you have completed this, you will then move into the next phase of treatment.
Someone dealing with severe rebound anxiety will likely be placed into residential treatment. It will be in their best interest to be in the presence of clinicians to help them overcome their symptoms. By doing so alone, you run the risk of relapse because if they cannot deal with the symptoms. Residential treatment will offer what we suggested above plus more, but the difference is you will be in the care of people trying to help you. If you or someone you know is currently experiencing rebound symptoms, it’s time to give us a call.
Benzodiazepine addiction is extremely dangerous, but it can be severe if you stop taking them after longtime use. It is especially true if you quit abruptly after developing a chemical dependence. If you start to feel withdrawal symptoms after you stop using the drug, know that it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, there is help available. Speak to an addiction treatment specialist at Serenity at Summit to learn more about benzodiazepine addiction and how it can be treated.
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Herman, J. B., Brotman, A. W., & Rosenbaum, J. F. (1987, October). Rebound anxiety in panic disorder patients treated with shorter-acting benzodiazepines. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2889722
Folk, J. (n.d.). Anxiety Disorder General Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-statistics-information.shtml
Any Anxiety Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml