Your question: Can Buspirone relieve my anxiety?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. 

At moderate levels, anxiety does not imply a problem in itself. In fact, anxiety is necessary for our survival because it activates a warning signal in our body that allows us to act in situations that endanger our integrity.

However, intense and recurrent anxiety generates an intense discomfort in anyone’s life, affecting different areas such as work, sleep, food and interpersonal relationships. It is therefore common for people with anxiety problems to ask what they can do to alleviate their anxious discomfort.

Along with other medications, Buspirone has proven to be a highly effective anxiolytic for treating symptoms of anxiety, especially generalized anxiety. It is an approved medication by the relevant health organizations, and it stands out because compared to other anxiolytics, it generates fewer negative side effects (1).

It should be noted that like any other psychiatric medication, Buspirone can only be taken if a physician prescribes it after an evaluation. This is necessary because not all people react the same way to medications. So, yes, Buspirone could help you control your anxiety problems.

However, it is not a magic bullet. While understanding your concern and discomfort caused by anxiety, I would like to make it clear that no medication or drug is an absolute remedy for emotional problems.

Chronic anxiety problems do not “go away” altogether, but rather people learn to cope with them. While Buspirone can be helpful, it is not the only thing you should do to relieve your anxiety. In this blog I will explain how this medication works and the effect it has on your brain and body, as well as give you coping strategies to complement your anti-anxiety treatment.

What effect does Buspirone have on your brain?

Neurotransmitters are biomolecules responsible for transmitting information from one neuron to another. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters responsible for, among multiple functions, emotion regulation. When you experience anxiety, these two neurotransmitters are deregulated, which causes a lack of control not only physically (this is why you feel tachycardia, sweating, muscle tension and other physical symptoms when you are anxious), but emotionally. This explains the increased sense of fear or worry associated with anxiety.

Buspirone interacts with serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain, stabilizing your emotional state in the process. It should be noted that the recommended doses of this anxiolytic should be referred by the treating physician, and generally range from 5 to 30 mg per day, depending on the intensity of the symptoms and the amount of time the person has been taking it (2).

Generally, Buspirone takes between 2 to 4 weeks to start working, so you should not worry if you do not notice important changes during this time. Something remarkable is that this anxiolytic, compared to others, is less likely to generate addiction and withdrawal in people, and the side effects are usually minor.

In the long term and in conjunction with psychological therapy and coping strategies, Buspirone is an extremely effective medication for relieving the discomfort of people with chronic anxiety. Again, if you want to take Buspirone for your anxiety, you need to see a doctor to determine if it is necessary for you.

Can Buspirone make your anxiety worse?

In many cases people do not need any medication at all to deal with their anxiety. Buspirone is not perfect and has its own side effects and is not as effective as other medications for problems such as panic attacks and social anxiety.

In some cases Buspirone can make a person’s anxiety symptoms worse, making them feel more irritable, nervous and energetic than normal. There is no certainty as to exactly why this happens, but it is related to the chemical composition of the drugs affecting each person’s brain chemistry differently.

Therefore, a drug that is effective for some aggravates the symptoms of others. If this happens to you, it’s not your fault. Many people with anxiety go through this process. Sometimes it is necessary, with the help of a psychiatrist, to try different medications in a regulated manner until you find the right one for you.

What other things can you do to control your anxiety?

As I mentioned, Buspirone is not a secret recipe to cure anxiety, but a supplement to help you cope with the annoying symptoms it causes. Therefore, it is necessary to see a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, if you feel that your symptoms are getting worse.

If you are on Buspirone, stick to your psychiatrist’s recommendations, do not change the recommended dosage, and above all, report to your psychiatrist as soon as possible if you start having trouble sleeping or eating properly. Some complementary strategies to address anxiety are:

Breathing and relaxation

Inhale through your nose for three seconds, exhale through your mouth for another three seconds. This while you close your eyes and feel how slowly the tension in your body decreases. You can apply this exercise for at least 10 minutes a day at different times, and just after experiencing an episode of anxiety.

Self-reporting of negative thoughts and emotions

Journaling the events related to your anxiety episodes is useful because it allows you to express your experience in a private space, and because it helps you identify thought patterns that you can eventually work on. Self-reporting consists of writing in a journal every time you feel anxious during the day: what you thought, what you felt and did, as well as events related to the anxious episode.

For example, during the afternoon you had an anxious episode. You thought “I have many debts to pay”, you felt an intense fear that generated fatigue and headache, and your coping was to panic and feel like crying. You should write down these facts in a timely manner, and pay particular attention to the thought that triggered the anxiety symptoms.

Thought stopping

This behavioral technique has been shown to be useful to manage the automatic thoughts present in people with anxiety problems and phobias. To perform this technique it is necessary that you first learn to identify the automatic thoughts that generate discomfort. For this, the self-recording of negative thoughts and feelings will be helpful (4).

Once you have identified the thoughts that generate anxiety, you must create a keyword. This word, which can be for example “stop”, “stop”, “silence” or something in particular that generates calmness, you will say it just in the moment in which the automatic thought begins to generate anxious symptoms.

For example, if you are calm at work and suddenly a thought comes to you saying “you are useless at your job”, you should say the key word: “STOP”, either out loud, in your own mind or by writing it down somewhere. This will help your brain create an association between the negative thoughts and a key word designed to stop them.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This technique consists of using your senses to dissuade emotional discomfort at a given moment. It is useful when you experience a lot of physical agitation or when you feel you have a lot of unpleasant thoughts, and you find it difficult to control your emotions. Wherever you are, you will focus on identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This will allow you to focus your attention on specific things during the period of anxiety, and slowly, the feeling of intense worry will diminish.

In my experience…

While it is true that medications such as Buspirone help alleviate anxiety symptoms, it is common for many people to believe that it is a definitive remedy. The truth is that there are no easy solutions to complex problems. Tackling anxiety is a rigorous but not impossible job. Medication is certainly a help, but you should not neglect other aspects such as psychological consultation and coping strategies. Anxiety does not have to control your life if you devote your energy to dealing with it.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this medium proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health

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