Dr. Peter Bongiorno discusses anxiety medications and his book Put Anxiety Behind You in the conversation below.
Disclaimer: This conversation is not to be intended as professional medical advice. If you are experiencing difficult symptoms with anxiety, please contact your healthcare practitioner.
Why not just go with medications when you’re anxious? Don’t they help?
While medications can help symptoms, research clearly shows that in the long term, use of anxiety and sleep medications greatly increase chance of death significantly. Also, the medications, when they work, tend to just cover up the symptoms and do not allow a person to process their feelings to actually heal the underlying issues. Anxiety is not a Xanax deficiency, and to truly heal, many factors should be considered. To get off the medications, a person still needs to learn what the underlying physical, emotional, and spiritual factors that lead to this anxiety. The drugs do not help us do that.
If a person is on anxiety medications and they don’t feel like they are working, what should they do?
In conventional medicine, when a medication does not work, typically the psychiatrist will start jumping around from medication to medication, in hopes of finding the one that works. However, there are studies showing how natural remedies can help medications work better in situations where they are not working. I have seen amazing results using these to help a person who was not able to get relief before using the medications. Once they feel better, then we can talk about working on some other underlying issues specific to them and possibly move to the place where the medications will not be necessary because the body is now nourished.
Should a person stop taking their medications and try natural medicine?
If someone is already on a medication they should never take themselves off a medication without speaking to their prescribing physician, for this can be dangerous, especially if someone stops using the medication too quickly. If someone is interested in natural therapies, they should remain on the medications they are using, and start working with a naturopathic physician or other well-trained practitioner in natural medicine to start working on the underlying causes of his or her anxiety. Once a person is on this path, and is stronger, then he or she can start thinking about slowly weaning off medication.
Most patients, and doctors, are afraid to use conventional medications along with natural remedies. Do you believe it is safe to use natural medicines with conventional treatments?
Most of the patients I see are already on anti-anxiety medications. My research and clinical experience tells me that not only are natural remedies safe to use with conventional therapies, they also will help the conventional medicines actually work better— and work in ‘treatment resistant’ cases, meaning the natural supports can actually help the medications work, when the medication by themselves would not. Even more, there are a number of studies I talk about in my book where natural remedies are used with conventional care quite successfully, and quite safely. Of course, I recommend each patient works with a naturopathic physician or someone who is knowledgeable and educated about natural remedies, for there are possible interactions with drugs. But when used properly, natural medicines are quite safe.
Disclaimer: This conversation is not to be intended as professional medical advice. If you are experiencing difficult symptom with anxiety, please contact your healthcare practitioner.
Dr. Peter Bongiorno is a naturopath and acupuncturist with offices in NYC and Long Island. He is licensed as an acupuncturist in the State of New York and as a naturopathic doctor in the State of Washington. He is an adjunct faculty member at NYU, where he teaches classes on holistic healing. He also writes for PsychologyToday, DrOz.com, and Sharecare.com.