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Daily anxiety - with Xanax

Apr 17, 2011

Dear David, Three years ago I was diagnosed HIV positive. Soon after I began the treatment with Kivexa and Kaletra. At the moment my health is excellent. My only problem, which occurs on a regular basis (almost daily) is a strong anxiety spurt, that is relatively relieved after administration of Xanax. What should I do?

Response from Dr. Fawcett

About 25% of people living with HIV experience at least one episode of anxiety in a 12-month period, so this can be a significant problem. Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin) are effective in the short term for reducing symptoms of anxiety, but can be very problematic when used on a consistent basis. The body quickly develops a tolerance for them, which can actually result in more anxiety attacks as a result of the medication, a process called "rebound." Speak with your doctor about your concerns and remember: never just stop taking benzodiazepines. They must be withdrawn slowly to prevent seizures and other very serious complications.

There are other effective interventions for anxiety, including exercise, proper diet, breath work, relaxation, and visualization. There are also different kinds of anti-anxiety medications that can be taken over a longer period of time. Finally, psychotherapy could provide some benefit to examine beliefs or fears that may be triggering your symptoms. Here is a good general site that goes into more detail: Mayo Clinic (anxiety).

Depression and risk of other medical illnesses
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