Anxiety: Popular prescribed medication puts you at risk of neuromuscular dysfunction

Anxiety: Popular prescribed medication puts you at risk of neuromuscular dysfunction

Babylon Health: Tips for coping with anxiety and mental health

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One very popular anti-anxiety medication prescribed in the UK, known as sertraline, could block unwanted sensations, bringing with it a sense of relief. However, as with any drug, side effects are common. The British National Formulary, published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), highlighted a “common” side effect. Taking sertraline puts you at risk of developing neuromuscular dysfunction.

The Royal College of Nursing explained that neuromuscular disorders encompasses a range of conditions, such as:

  • Motor neurone disease
  • Multiple sclerosis.

People presenting symptoms of neuromuscular dysfunction are likely to experience:

  • Muscular weakness
  • Rigidity
  • Loss of muscular control
  • Myoclonus (twitching, spasming, cramping)
  • Myalgia (muscle pain)
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in facial appearance
  • Visual disturbances.

Any of these symptoms warrant a medical review with your doctor, who may need to adjust your prescription.

Other “very common” side effects of sertraline can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Vasodilation.

How to reduce feelings of anxiety without medication

The experts at Harvard Health recommend a “mind-body” approach to addressing feelings of anxiety.

One such solution is hypnosis in tandem with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

These therapeutic measures help to retrain your attention and to help you relax.

As these might be expensive, or involve a lengthy NHS waiting time, another technique – you can learn for free – is diaphragmatic breathing.

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Taking deep breaths

Diaphragmatic breathing begins the moment you observe your breath – now take in a deep, slow breath.

The air coming in through your nose should feel as though it moves downward into your lower belly.

Allow the abdomen to expand fully and then breath out through your nose or mouth very slowly.

If you repeat this process, you may start to notice that feelings of anxiety dissipate.

Do not put a time pressure on how long it is supposed to take, just keep breathing, slowly.

It can also help to put one hand just below your belly button so that you can feel when your belly rises and falls.

The experts suggest doing this deep breathing practise every day for 20 minutes, regardless if you feel anxious or not.

By practising, the next moment anxiety strikes, you will be prepared to take a deep, slow breath.

For those who struggle to stop worrying throughout the day, meditation app Headspace suggests to schedule “worry time” in your calendar.

Setting aside 30 minutes each day to focus on your worries is one of the first steps to containing them.

This “worry period” should be at the same time every day, which will eventually help you to stop worrying for the rest of the time.

Should bothersome thoughts crop up here and there, meditation and deep breathing can be a tool to reset.

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