I will try to keep my story short and simple.
My anxiety is pretty bad and fairly restricted to my health issues - I have had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for about 9 years. I am now nearly 28.
With the onset of IBS at age 19, I began to experience debilitating panic attacks. I was put on Zoloft, which made my IBS worse, though it did help lessen my anxiety. I stayed on Zoloft about a year and felt better while learning to cope with panic attacks. After quitting Zoloft, my IBS was okay, still a bother, but not enough to cause anxiety such that it interfered with my daily life. Panic attacks have never returned at the same level of severity since then, though I do have minor panic issues as described below.
When I began graduate school in 2003, the increase in my stress levels worsened both my IBS and anxiety. It's a chicken and the egg sort of thing for me - one causes the other to worsen and then they continue in a vicious cycle. Since that time, life has been a daily struggle.
My anxiety and phobias worsened considerably. I was put on Elavil for a year. It made me gain weight and i didn't like the anticholinergic effects, so I stopped taking it after about 6 months. I was on a very low dose just for my IBS, so it didn't do much for anxiety. When things got particularly bad in early 2006, I was put on Effexor XR. Stayed on that for almost 2 years. It definitely helped my anxiety, but I think made my IBS worse and caused me to gain noticable weight -to the point where I had to get new clothes. Ick. The withdrawal off Effexor was pure hell for me, too.
So, that brings me to the present. I am now working and in a very high-stress demanding job. I have my IBS pretty much under control 90% of the time due to supplementation and diet. I have also done hypnotherapy to help with it, but, I don't think it's enough. I still find that whenever I get into situations where I know I have no control over when I can leave (e.g. client meetings, office meetings, etc) I begin to freak. I have baby panic attacks, but no one would know as I keep my exterior very calm. However, internally I am a mess and I start to obsess about the "what ifs" as to whether my IBS will act up and cause me embarassment. I think I actually induce IBS symptoms - uncontrollable gas, feelings of urgency, etc. It's making working on a daily basis intolerable as I have to interact with my colleagues and clients quite frequently.
I saw a therapist in December who dx'd me as having anxiety disorder. He wanted to do a round of CBT and treat me with Celexa. CBT sounds okay, but I was so hesitant to try another anti-d as I seem to be very sensitive to side effects, I have a rough time getting off of them, they tend to mess with my GI system which does not help my IBS, and they always seem to cause me to pack on 10 or more pounds. I didn't pursue the CBT as of yet because of my work schedule, but now feel like I have to do something - even if it's an inconvenience - because I am driving myself crazy.
1- Can anxiety like this be treated without resorting to meds? Or, are meds something that will help me get to the point where I can deal with my anxiety issues adequately enough such that I can stop meds?
2- Has anyone done CBT and found that it works? The therapist explained it to me, but I don't see how it could help me. I try to be mindful of my present situation and acknowledge the rationality/irrationality of my thoughts already and no matter how hard I try, my anxiety takes over.
3- Are there any other medications out there besides anti-ds that can help anxiety that you don't have to take daily?
Thanks. I'm new to the anxiety diagnosis and how to treat it :) I exercise regularly, eat very very well, avoid caffiene and sugar... etc etc etc...all the stuff that is supposed to help reduce stress. I just am beginning to think I can't do this on my own.