Will antianxiety meds take away a temper?
October 30, 2009 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Will antianxiety meds take away a temper?

I'm starting to realize that I need to be on antianxeity meds. I have never been on one (only antidepressants) and have been putting it off due to fear of side-effects and guinea pig system until we find one that works.

However, I'm beyond stressed lately even wondering if I have post partum anxiety issues. I love my son to death but when the stress becomes unbareable, one more thing puts me over the edge and my temper goes to a zero to 60 in 3 seconds and I blow up (slamming door, yelling at the animals to get out of the way because they're always at my feet, etc. but never, never do I touch him). I do everything possible not to yell at my son or have him see my blow ups because I grew up this way and I never want my son to feel the way I felt as a kid. Yet yesterday I failed miserably. High stress of the day and high traffic on top of his non stop wailing/screaming/shrililng in a car seat for a 40 min drive led me to just lose it, scream, hit the steering wheel, cry and of course, that made things worse for him. The entire ride I just wailed and cried and my husband had to calm me down via phone. I just can't take it anymore.

And yes, I am in therapy about this and the 9 billion stressors in my life. It just feels like with parenthood, I'm at a breaking point. All I fantasize about is being alone somewhere with no one to bother me and to sleep and not have one person/animal ask me to do something. My husband tries to get it. He doesn't and at times, adds to it. Plus he has his own anxiety/sleep/high stress due to work issues and is on Cymbalta. So we're already quite a pair. :(

I think I want to know what do antianxiety meds feel like? I don't want to be a zombie or neutral since I'm tired to the point of dillirium all of the time (made an appt. for thyroid/diabetes check since I'm concerned). I also am afraid of the weight gain and any other side effects.

I was "good" on Wellbutrin for a year then that stopped working but again, I'm not depressed, suicidal, or anything linked to post partum psychosis. I'm just fed up with stress, feel like I'm ready for a nervous breakdown, while at the same time feeling like I'm going to jump out of my skin 24/7. Even my teeth feel like they're buzzing I'm that wound up all. of. the. time.

Any insights to what they're like would be helpful. I know each case is unique but still, a general knowlege would be helpful and if it takes the 0 to 60 temper away.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
I'm so sorry you're going through this.

Regarding the antidepressants (and since this is anonymous, you'll have to email one of the moderators; alternatively, you can memail me, if you like, and I will absolutely respect your privacy): when you say you were "good on Wellbutrin but it stopped working," does that mean you went off the Wellbutrin entirely? Or are you still on it? Did you and your doctor adjust the dosage? Have you tried other antidepressants?

I have a family member whose postpartum issues manifested more as rage than anything else -- the hair-trigger temper and feeling of impending nervous breakdown that you mention is exactly what she went through. She was finally helped with the right dose of antidepressants; I can't remember exactly which one finally worked for her (I want to say Wellbutrin, but it may have been Celexa... sorry), but it did take some tinkering with the dosage to get it right.
posted by scody at 11:33 AM on October 30, 2009

Honestly, its impossible to answer this. I have friends on Buspar, and some claim it does nothing and others say it works great. Others on benzos. Others on antidepressants/SSRIs. I think, generally, some negative emotions get turned down when you are less stressed. So your temper might get better or stay the same. Just bring up your concerns with your doctor.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:33 AM on October 30, 2009

Lithium has largely killed my temper.
posted by Darth Fedor at 11:43 AM on October 30, 2009

The behavioral disinhibition caused by benzodiazepines can make some people more irritable, aggressive, or prone to anger. Something to consider.
posted by maishuno at 12:04 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, I can provide an uncommon perspective due to how little I am taking and what it does. With migraines they sometimes try small doses of nortriptyline to stop the migraines. I realized two weeks in I'd had a plastic smile pressed on my face, absolutely no negative thoughts at all, been absurdly productive, and had absolutely no sexual interest at all. Which scared me a bit so I stopped taking that.

They tried 25mg/night (50 or 60 is the usual bottom level dose for therapy) of amitriptyline next and that one worked on my migraines after a few months, and took away what I called irrational depression. I used to get depressed a bit around the holidays for no good reason several years after my dad died, and that went away. The first night I took it I slept the best I ever have too.

Beyond those it's the same as normal: temper, rational depression, libido, etc, and my migraines are down from daily to 4/year. So I'm still on this. The only other change is I'm oddly unaffected by the heat of a car I get in that's been sitting in the sun all day... which, in the big scheme of things really sucked so I'm embracing that side effect and being diligent about staying cool too. I still get irrationally angry when my blood sugar's low, which I think is an important warning that I messed up my blood sugar, so all in all it's been pretty good for me.
posted by jwells at 12:09 PM on October 30, 2009

I think, long term, therapy can probably do a lot to teach you how to contextualize and deal with your stressors in a healthy way. If you're this stressed and your husband is this stressed you're in an environment that is constantly reinforcing detrimental habits and feelings. You're probably both going to have to make some material changes in both your external life (scheduling, responsibility breakdown) and internal life (learning why you feel what you feel and what you can do about it; cognitive behavioral therapy is very helpful for this)

In the short term, antianxiety meds might do a lot help you chill out enough to get what you need from the therapy. Your description of feeling like you're about to jump out of your skin and that your teeth are buzzing sounds very much like anxiety related issues to me.

As for what they feel like, I don't have temper issues, but I do have anxiety problems (and have had what I call a "wee little nervous breakdown" in the past). I've taken a variety of benzos (both solo and once with antidepressants) in the past. I've generally taken them "as needed" as opposed to on a schedule. Sometimes I need something nearly every day, sometimes I can go months without getting to that point where I need help. For me, at reasonable doses, they don't make me feel tired or like a zombie or high or anything. I've always said it surprises me that people take them recreationally, since they don't make me feel anything fun, weird, or out of it at all. They just take the edge off the full body, out of control, drowning in anxiety and distress feeling. They help me breathe normally, calm down a bit, and focus.

Being able to get that relief from the constant barrage of anxious feelings helps me find the mental energy to be proactive about dealing with what's prompting the feelings in the first place.

Also in the short term, it also sounds like you need some help and some solitude. If your husband can't provide the help to let you do that, it would be a very good idea to prioritize getting a sitter, relative, or friend to watch the baby and let you get some time. Maybe even a long afternoon every other week where you could just go somewhere quiet for a few hours would give you something to look forward to as you deal with this stuff.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:13 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, obviously I can only speak to my own experience.

The very first thing I noticed when I went on anti-depressants (the third time) was that the small stuff ceased to bother me. Like, when I was really depressed, the smallest thing would just set me off. Usually it was something my SO did...and I'd freak out for really no reason at all and turn some mole hill into a mountain and then feel horrendously guilty about it after. I love my SO and she didn't deserve any of the shit I was throwing out.

After I went on anti-depressants (a common SSRI at a pretty significant does), the little things ceased to bother me and it was WONDERFUL. I calmed way the fuck down. It was great. It sounds like my situation and yours were pretty similar. Wellbutrin tends to increase anxiety, it is often prescribed in adults for ADD and the the like). I would imagine that you might benefit greatly from something different (obvs IANAT, IANAD, etc).

Either way, talk to your doctor. And best of luck.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:15 PM on October 30, 2009

Anger and irritability are amplified by anxiety and depression. When I'm not on meds (currently I take Pristiq), I have temper issues. Big, bad temper issues. On the meds, I'm mellow but can have flashes of justified anger ("justified": idiot steps on my foot and doesn't apologize, so on). It's all good.

So, yeah, anti-anxiety meds can reduce a temper.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 12:17 PM on October 30, 2009

I am a really high-stress, short-fuse person, and I tend to have a lot of those "screaming and losing it over something that seems innocuous" moments. It's not a good feeling, and I am really sorry you are experiencing it. I've done some ridiculously bad things when the temper and the pure seething meanness overtakes me, and I've managed it in lots of different ways in my life. Exercise, plenty of sleep and eating better can help, and therapy can help, but they haven't always been enough.

My two cents is that certain antidepressants helped me a LOT with this and that you very well should consider talking to a doctor about it. Different meds work different ways at different times, as I am sure you know. My limited experience with Wellbutrin was that it made me MORE tense and amped up, but on Zoloft it was a lot easier for me to manage my anxiety, frustration, and anger. Your experiences are going to be unique, but you don't need to write off antidepressants.

I've also taken antianxiety meds, and was on xanax for quite some time. There are a lot of pros and cons to that. On the one hand, a xanax can calm those feelings very quickly, but on the other hand they can make you sleepy, and you cannot drive when you are taking them (would this cause a problem for you?). On low doses of xanax or ativan, you might not feel like a zombie, but nevertheless you might have side effects that require limitations in your daily life. For me at least, low doses of these meds were not like taking a sleeping pill, they just calmed the screaming feeling (if that makes sense) of my nerves. But, antianxiety meds per se (i.e. benzos) might not be the only - or even the best - option a doctor might suggest.

I guess what I am saying is that there are certainly different kinds of medication that could help with your feelings, and you don't need to be suicidal or unable to get out of bed to consider them. When your feelings are interfering with your ability to manage stress in a healthy way, and therapy alone isn't doing it, going to the doctor for options is a great step.
posted by bunnycup at 12:22 PM on October 30, 2009

My brother started taking Celexa recently and came home for a visit last month. The difference in his moods was remarkable. There were times when we'd get into our usual heated debates over things and I was just waiting for the inevitable flip out, but it never happened. Plus, he doesn't get the terrifying attacks any more and he's no longer carrying the world on his shoulders. He also said he hasn't had any negative side effects and feels pretty damn good. Of course, YMMV.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:30 PM on October 30, 2009

A close relative of mine took Celexa and it helped a lot in reducing the rapid surges of anger. Because of side effects, the doctor switched him to a mood stabilizer called Lamictal; that did just as good a job at evening things out. (The relative wasn't depressed, but he did have a fair amount of anxiety.)

A good friend takes Ativan for the same reason. He says he takes it rarely, and has a theory that just having the drug available all the time makes it less likely he'll need it. To me, this makes sense, especially if there's a "wit's end" or anxiety component to the anger.
posted by wryly at 12:50 PM on October 30, 2009

Stop any sources of caffeine
posted by majortom1981 at 12:58 PM on October 30, 2009

I have a history of anxiety and have definitely found that reducing my anxiety reduces that 0-60 anger flare-up thing, too. It seems to me like being anxious uses up all my patience and resources and it can take just the smallest thing to tip me over the edge. Dealing with the anxiety (I've had good luck both with medications and with cognitive-behavioral therapy) definitely chills me out, and I stop having that temptation to kick the cat for being in my way or throw dishes across the kitchen because someone has just asked me for a cup of juice for the 10 zillionth time today.

Let me take a moment to offer sympathy. That feeling of just wanting to get somewhere alone where nobody is asking me for anything is very familiar, since I have young kids, too. I also had PPD after my first son was born (but no problems after giving birth the second time). When I had a day like you had yesterday, I drove myself and the baby to the ER, I felt so overwhelmed. But things can get better.
posted by not that girl at 1:50 PM on October 30, 2009

I had great success in reducing my anger issues - to the point of near-elimination - with the atypical antipsychotic Risperidone (Risperdal).

Atypical antipsychotics are normally used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but in low doses they can work for anxiety. The most common of the family used for such seems to be Seroquel, which I had to drop because of the side effects. But for a while, Risperidone worked great for me, particularly for my anger. It fell away in a manner of days. And while I was only on the drug for a couple of months (it stopped working on my anxiety issues), the anger has stayed away -- probably because of some effort on my part, but Risperidone gave me the jump start I needed.

Anyway, these drugs affect everyone differently, and as I said I don't even take Risperidone anymore, but I did have this long-term benefit.

And I have to have with maishuno about benzos...they actually make my anger worse, probably because they can reduce inhibitions and can make you fly off the handle.
posted by hiteleven at 2:56 PM on October 30, 2009

My experience is much the same as wryly's friend and Lutoslawski's. I'm on a relatively high dose of Celexa, and have been for a year. I haven't lost my shit once since last December.

I also have not changed my caffeine intake, which is high.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 3:49 PM on October 30, 2009

a friend of mine had quite the temper (would throw things, etc) and then went on antidepressants (possibly lexapro?). his temper issues have toned down enough that if he does have them, they mostly seem internal.
posted by itsacover at 4:27 PM on October 30, 2009

What good answers--the "antidepressants" (SSRIs, SNRIs, etc.) are the first line of defense for anxiety. While they are called anti depressants they are also the safest and preferred treatment for most anxiety disorders. They maybe intially augmented by benzodiazapines if there is no history of substance abuse or if the anxiety is sufficiently incapacitating. Benzo's are not a preferred drug for ongoing treatment because of habituation, dependence, tolerance and withdrawl. As one poster mention--some of the new generation of antipsychotics are extremely effective in managing anxiety--when given for anxirty they are usually prescribed in "sub therapeutic" doses. They can be quite effective and have the advantage of not causing dependence. And Yes--as other posters indicated. Anti anxiety meds can be, and often are, very effective in helping temper outburst, particularly those labelled "uncontrolled or uncontrollable". All of these are much much safer and more efficacious than alcohol. One of the posters was also correct in that the disinhibition caused by Benzo's ( ativan, xanax, etc) can be problematic.
Good luck
posted by rmhsinc at 9:35 AM on October 31, 2009

After thoughts--dosage is very important and tweaking is often necessary. AND, not all antidepressants are equal and work differently on different people. Also. when antianxiety/antidepressants work the goal is not to feel "good" the goal is to not feel bad. Properly used thet restore chemical equilibrium. Benzo's may cause a sense of euphoria, once again, thry are not preferred, and should only be used temporarily. They are fine for situational anxiety ( dentist, flying, acute loss, specific and repetitive phobias,etc.). ALso most of the SSRIs are now generic and are very inexpensive.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:48 AM on October 31, 2009

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