Define Your Terms
Just to clear up some of the terminology used. Anxiolytic is the technical term for an anti-anxiety medication. It’s also a lot shorter. Tranquilizer and sedative are interchangeable terms for a type of anxiolytic that also puts you to sleep, or relaxes you so much you may as well be sleeping, such as a benzodiazepine. “Major tranquilizer” is a holdover from the days when consumers didn’t know shit about the meds they were taking and often refers to an antipsychotic - usually a first-generation antipsychotic - that is being used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Sedatives is a class of medications that includes barbiturates, chloral hydrate, benzodiazepines, and some modern hypnotics such as Ambien (zolpidem tartrate).
Anxiety Spectrum Conditions
When most people think of anxiety conditions they think of conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAnD) / social phobia, and various panic disorders, especially agoraphobia. Other conditions in the anxiety spectrum include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most of the time anxiety conditions can be treated without medication. When medication is required it is usually for a short duration and/or used as needed (PRN). As with depression, meds should be reserved for when someone isn’t, or is barely able to function due to their condition. Let’s take social anxiety/phobia, as it’s really easy to determine if you need medication for SAnD or not.
- If you can leave you house, hold down a job (even one that involves as little contact with people as possible), and otherwise function, no matter how little interaction you have with anyone else, you can probably overcome the condition with therapy.1 Drugs, if needed, would be used for a very short time.
- If the only time you can leave your house is when you know there will be as few people around as possible, and you’ve adjusted your life so you do your shopping at 3:00 a.m., and only for stuff you can’t get online, then you need meds. Maybe not forever, but probably for more than six-to-eight weeks.