Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
My brother is like crazy anxious but when he went to see a shrink he put him on an antidepressant? I don’t get it? He is not depressed?
The volume control of human emotion is a chemical in the brain called serotonin. When its low emotions are “O-My God,” loud. When serotonin is high emotions are quieted down. There really is no such thing as an antidepressant as the medications that affect serotonin are not specific for sadness but as they increase serotonin they turn down emotion, all emotion. That’s why when people are on to much of a serotonin medication they complain of feeling numb or having no emotion.
Your brother received a serotonin antidepressant for anxiety. The antidepressant thing is just marketing because ‘Numbing Agent’ doesn’t sound as pleasant.
Serotonin antidepressants can help anxiety in a few other ways as well. Many people are anxious because they have heightened empathy. If you feel the pain of others to much you get too invested in it and it can make you feel worse than the person you believe is suffering feels themselves. Serotonin antidepressants block empathy so they help you to not get enmeshed in other peoples stuff. They help you from living in other people’s heads.
Serotonin antidepressants decrease obsessive thoughts and perfectionism which is a huge cause of anxiety for people. Again giving one distance from emotions you get a tad Zen from the pill, “Whatever.”
In rare cases people can have the opposite reaction from antidepressants. If a person has bipolar genetics serotonin can be like rocket fuel agitating them. Serotonin antidepressants in rare cases can also be disinhibiting. Disinhibition plus agitation can fuel the increased risk of suicide that you read so much about these days from taking serotonin antidepressants. Again this is rare but it is possible.
Hope your brother is feeling better,
Dr. Brilliant Cliché.