How Anxiolytics Work (And Whether You Should Take Them)

What are Anxiolytics?

Anxiolytics treat anxiety and panic attacks. Whether you regularly find yourself having panic attacks or you simply find yourself feeling stressed from time to time, then you may have been recommended anxiolytics by your doctor. These medications work in a number of ways to help combat both the psychological and physiological symptoms associated with it.

But how do they work?

Neuroscience

All anxiolytics work by changing the release of neurotransmitters and hormones that are associated with stress or anxiety. Stress is essentially caused by the ‘fight or flight’ response, which is our body’s chemical response to danger. When we think we’re under some kind of threat, we release adrenaline, norepinephrine, dopamine, cortisol and more and this leads to an increase in our heartrate, dilation of the pupils, dilation of the blood vessels and even increased blood viscosity. The muscles become stronger and we become more alert but the immune system and digestion are suppressed until we become safer.

Anxiolytics
Blackboard with the chemical formula of Alprazolam

Most anxiolytics work by increasing the amount of a substance called ‘GABA’ or gamma aminobutyric acid. This is an ‘inhibitory’ neurotransmitter. The purpose of an inhibitory neurotransmitters is to suppress activity in the brain and communication between brain cells. This leaves us feeling less alert and less anxious which in turn causes those anxiety-related neurotransmitters to subside. Essentially it works by sedating us slightly. Other anti-anxiety medication works by increasing serotonin. Serotonin is the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter and when there’s lots of it in the brain, we feel happy and cheerful. Increasing this can therefore reduce feelings of anxiety and dread.

The Challenge with Anxiolytics

anxiolytics

The problem is that both these methods can lead to unwanted side effects as well as addiction. When you increase or decrease specific neurotransmitters, the brain responds by reducing its natural production of those chemicals. They also reduce its ability to respond to them (by removing ‘receptors’). Thus you can develop to the point where you need stronger doses of the medication to get the same results. Likewise, you can find yourself feeling even worse when you’re not using the medication. This is called ‘tolerance and dependence’.

Furthermore, using medication like this does not address the root cause of the problems. The root is the thought processes that lead to that chemical change. While anxiolytics might be useful in the short term for preventing the on-set of an attack, it’s important to use other methods in the long term to solve the problem.


Therapy Tools

How to Overcome a Panic Attack With the ‘AWARE’ Method

panic aware

What is AWARE?

All of us experience anxiety from time to time but this is most severe by far when it evolves into a full blown anxiety attack of panic attack. This is something that most of us will experience at some time in our lives and that can ultimately become crippling as you worry that heading out into public spaces could result in fainting, or that falling asleep could trigger an attack.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat panic attacks and with the right approach, these methods can be highly effective at getting the problem under control and even preventing them altogether. One such option is to use the ‘AWARE’ strategy.

AWARE is an acronym that stands for:

  • Acknowledge and Accept
  • Wait and watch
  • Actions to make yourself comfortable
  • Repeat
  • End

The key to this is essentially to accept that the attack is happening and not to try and ‘fight it’. Instead, you simply acknowledge it and then ‘watch’ it as you go about your business as usual. The very best way to fight a panic attack? To continue acting as though it’s not happening.

Why Ignore a Panic Attack

When you first notice a panic attack begin, you will find that the symptoms can be somewhat similar to what you imagine a heart attack to be like. As you may expect, this in itself can be a highly distressing prospect and actually creates much more anxiety. Other people are actually afraid of anxiety attacks themselves because they dislike the experience so much.

Thus it’s common to start worrying about the panic attack itself as well as whatever triggered it. It’s this subsequent panic that can lead to escalation and ultimately result in the individual passing out of collapsing.

And this in turn is why it’s so important not to try and ‘combat’ the effects of a panic attack through sheer will. Instead, by ignoring the panic attack, by recognizing it for what it is and by being comfortable and allowing it to run its course you can actually find that it goes away much more quickly. What’s more, is that once you lose the fear of the symptoms, it will eventually stop happening altogether.

Of course it is still important to try and remove yourself from any potential danger – which may mean pulling over if you are driving or removing yourself from a public space.

aware

More Soothing Tools

How to Support Someone with Bulimia

Anxiety Support and Treatment

When you love someone with bulimia, it is important to be a good support to them. Oftentimes a person with an eating disorder is too embarrassed to seek help. Other times, they may deny that they have a problem. So if you noticed a friend who may bulimic, here are some ways you could approach your friends to help them.

Educate Yourself

Educate yourself. You need to educate yourself on what bulimia is really about. Learn what kind of eating disorder is it. How does it come about? Why does it happen? What are the signs and symptoms of bulimia? What could you do to help them? Educate yourself first before trying to help another.

Ask Questions and Listen

Sit the person down and have a talk with them. Listen with understanding. Do not be judgmental. Tell them all you have learned about bulimia. Tell them you are being concerned about their health, their eating habits. Do not attack them. Attacking them would make them go on the defense and you would never be able to proceed from there on.

Offer Support

Give your support. Tell that them you are there to give them support. You could always be available for them. Tell them that if they do not want to discuss the matter, it’s okay but you are always willing to help them should they change their mind. You could accompany them to a counselor or a physician to get themselves checked.

Social Support

You could also find a social group for your friend with other sufferers of bulimia. Together they would be able to help each other through it. These social groups will create a safe environment for your friend to feel comfortable in.

Lastly, be kind and understanding. Know your limits. You can’t give them the professional help they need. Just be prepared to give them the moral support they need. Fighting bulimia may be a lifelong battle and they need all the help they can get. So be there for them!


Bulimia is more than just a problem with your weight. An eating disorder isn’t something that’s formed on easy terms. And I don’t blame you, sometimes our circumstances such as our genetics, family background and social environments drive us into this self destructive pattern as a form of coping mechanism. And once we spiral into a maze of negativity, it can be very hard to get out of our self sabotaging ways of behavior. Discover how a hopeless bulimic freed himself from his uncontrolled habits and rid himself from life destroying addictions once and for all!

At the root of bulimia is a need to feel in control. While purging is a strategy for controlling weight, bingeing is an attempt to calm depression, stress, shame, and even boredom. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Bulimia offers new and healthy ways to overcome the distressing feelings and negative body-image beliefs that keep you trapped in this cycle.

DBT and Bulimia
DBT and Bulimia

How to Identify and Provide Safe Food for Bulimics

Contrary to popular belief, bulimia does not only affect young teenage girls. Bulimia also affects adult women and young teenage boys and adult men too. Overcoming this eating disorder may take months or even years depending on the individual. One of the ways that could help a bulimic patient overcome this eating disorder is to identify safe food that they could eat on a regular basis. These foods will be non-guilty food and will also provide all the nutrition that they need.

Step 1

First, ask the bulimic patient to keep a diary of food they have eaten for at least a week. The diary should be very detailed and includes everything that was consumed and the emotions that they experienced with the different food. They have to write too if they had purged after eating that food. Remind them to write in their journal immediately right after eating or purging.

Step 2

Then review the diary together with the patient. Work out which food causes negative associations and which food has a positive experience.  List all the negative food under a page entitled foods to avoid. Write down all the food that patients purged on that page too. Then list down all the positive emotion food under a list entitled safe food. Work out which food that the patient has ate but did not purge and add it under that list. The safe food list should also contain fruits and vegetables the patients will enjoy.

Step 3

Next, together with the patient, create a weekly eating plan made of safe food. The plan should include each meal for each day and any snacks. Work out a grocery list with instructions to purchase the right amount of safe food for each meal. Remember to limit the number of days of food that they are allowed to purchase. This will prevent them from going on a bingeing spree. You could also work out recipes that are easy to follow and fast to prepare for the convenience of the patient.

In conclusion, with this food journal, the bulimic patient will now be able to eat healthily without feeling guilty. It is a never ending process but tell them to be patient and never give in to their cravings. Be there for them!


Bulimia Support Products

Bulimia is more than just a problem with your weight. An eating disorder isn’t something that’s formed on easy terms. And I don’t blame you, sometimes our circumstances such as our genetics, family background and social environments drive us into this self destructive pattern as a form of coping mechanism. And once we spiral into a maze of negativity, it can be very hard to get out of our self sabotaging ways of behavior. Discover how a hopeless bulimic freed himself from his uncontrolled habits and rid himself from life destroying addictions once and for all!

At the root of bulimia is a need to feel in control. While purging is a strategy for controlling weight, bingeing is an attempt to calm depression, stress, shame, and even boredom. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Bulimia offers new and healthy ways to overcome the distressing feelings and negative body-image beliefs that keep you trapped in this cycle.

DBT and Bulimia
DBT and Bulimia