When anti-anxiety medication is not enough to control anxiety

My daughter suffers from a very very severe case of anxiety disorder. She has lived a life controlled by worry and depression. At age 34, Beth is finally seeing the light. She is successfully using a cocktail of anti-anxiety medications which have definitely decreased her anxiety. But the medication has not completed the task of controlling Beth’s anxiety sufficiently. She continues to be functioning in a limited capacity both in her personal and business life.

For 2 years her psychiatrist has been begging Beth to see a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. (Learn more about CBT.) Beth finally relented after realizing that her anxiety is too great even for the right medication. Beth realized how victimized she’s been by her anxiety. She said, “I am no longer willing to live like this.” Acceptance of the fact that this illness is controlling her has been a big step in getting the right help.

In Beth’s case, the medication alone is not enough. Her deeply ingrained patterns of thinking and overthinking can paralyze her even with the medication. With the help of the CBT therapist, Beth is learning how to ”reprogram” her brain by taking the swirling worries, thoughts, chores, fears, etc out of her head. She is being taught how to make appropriate lists, how to break each task, thought, fear, etc. down into smaller pieces, and how to appropriate time to handle each thing. She is learning how to feel good about successfully taking a baby step, and to see the baby steps connecting to become a big accomplishment.

control anxiety

Some of my friends could use a professional organizer to sort out their homes. We people with GAD could benefit from a professional BRAIN ORGANIZER to help sort out the thoughts in our overactive minds. I have managed so far without CBT. But listening to Beth’s stories about the CBT has made me realize that I might be doing better had I undergone CBT also. (I have not ruled it out yet.)

CBT differs greatly from regular therapy. You don’t just sit and talk and get feedback. You are taught specific techniques to gain control of your thoughts. You get homework and have to practice techniques taught. CBT also differs because it is finite. The therapist can approximate how long it will take to teach you what you need to do in order to be in control of your anxiety. This makes the process very tempting for me. Especially since I’ve been in regular psychotherapy for about 30 years!

I often can’t control the thoughts racing around inside the head. I think this is a huge symptom of anxiety disorder. CBT is a tool for removing those thoughts from our brains and learning what to do with them.