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Medications for Mood and Anxiety Disorders

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For the three years that I have had post-traumatic stress disorder, I have been on two medication regimens.

From December 2006 to August 2007, I took the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor Lexapro for depression symptoms. From October 2008 to now, I restarted Lexapro and Vistaril for anxiety symptoms; in ten days, I will be off of Lexapro for good and use Vistaril for emergency panic attacks only.

I started using medications because they were the only way to control my symptoms; however, during that time, I was always in therapy. I began using Lexapro for the first time within months of my assault; I stopped using it before entering my junior year because I had my symptoms under control. However, during my senior year, I dealt with both of my assailants trying to contact me, my mother's cancer, and a thesis about sexual assault. After talking to both my therapist and psychiatrist, I decided I needed medication again. However, medication is not for everyone.

Antidepressants are often used for mood disorders, like depression and bipolar disorder. The most common types of antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and tricyclic antidepressants. Both types of medications work by preventing the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters, thus allowing more to be used. However, tricyclic antidepressants prevent the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine.

Antidepressants can also be used for anxiety, which is what I used Lexapro for the second time around. However, I was also experiencing panic attacks. One type of medication, benzodiazepines, is used for anxiety treatment. However, benzodiazepines are often abused. Benzodiazepines act on the GABA receptor in the brain—the same receptor that ethanol acts upon. Since I have a history of alcoholism in my family, my psychiatrist and I decided not to use a benzodiazepine, and opted for Vistaril. Vistaril is an interesting medication: it is actually an antihistamine. Side effects of Vistaril is sleepiness and slurred speech, which I never experienced.

Part of my decision to come off medication was that I did not want to rely on a daily medication (taking a daily birth control pill is enough for me.) Even though I have a family history of mood disorders, I have learned to recognize when I will have a panic attack or a bout of depression, and what I can do to quell that. However, I do not think I could have made it to this point without using medication for the time I did. Before you begin any medication regimen for a mood or anxiety disorder, make sure you and your psychiatrist discuss the benefits and side effects.

Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch received her bachelor’s of science degree in neuroscience from Trinity College in Hartford, CT in May 2009. She is the Hartford Women's Health Examiner and she writes about abuse on Suite 101.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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