A number of different medications can help in treatment for anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety disorder, phobias and panic disorder can all be helped with medication in most cases.
Below are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for treating anxiety disorders’ symptoms. No single medication is appropriate for everyone, and many patients find that a combination of medication and therapy is more helpful than medication alone. With any anxiety disorder, careful monitoring of symptoms as treatment is underway is important for ensuring optimal results.
The most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety disorders are antidepressants. These drugs help regulate the brain chemicals that are known to influence mood and emotion, such as serotonin. Antidepressants may be helpful for post-traumatic stress syndrome, generalized anxiety disorder and many other anxiety disorders, but they can take several weeks to fully take effect.
Among the various classes of antidepressants on the market, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the class used most often prescribed for treatment of anxiety disorders. This group includes:
- Citalopram (brand name Celexa)
- Fluoxetine (brand name Prozac)
- Paroxetine (brand name PaxilÂ®).
SSRIs tend to have fewer side effects than other antidepressants, and several of them are specifically labeled and marketed for treating anxiety disorders. They work by preventing the neurons of the brain from absorbing serotonin. This leads to increased levels of this chemical in the extra-cellular space of the brain.
Patients with anxiety disorders, particularly panic disorder, are sometimes prescribed benzodiazepines, also called anti-anxiety drugs. Benzodiazepines are a sedative that calm the acute physical symptoms associated with anxiety, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and increased heart rate. These drugs work much more quickly than antidepressants, but they are not considered a long-term solution to managing anxiety. They can also be habit forming.
Buspirone is new anti-anxiety drug that is distinctly different from benzodiazepines. It too is used for fast-acting treatment of short-term anxiety symptoms.
Prazosin actually belongs to a class of high blood pressure medications known as “alpha blockers.” In addition to treating hypertension, it is also sometimes given to patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to help alleviate nightmares. The drug works by counteracting the effects of adrenaline, a brain chemical that appears to contribute to nightmares in PTSD patients.
Beta blockers are another type of high blood pressure medication. Like anti-anxiety drugs, beta blockers help anxiety disorder patients manage the physical symptoms of anxiety. These drugs are especially useful for those with panic disorder.
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc. (2009). Buspirone. Retrieved July 26, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a688005.html.
Curtis, J. (2009). Prazosin for PTSD. Retrieved July 26, 2010, from http://www.health.com/health/library/mdp/0,,ad1009,00.html.
Dryden-Edwards, R. (2008). Separation anxiety disorder. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from http://www.medicinenet.com/separation_anxiety/article.htm.
Mayo Clinic. (2009). Generalized anxiety disorder. Retrieved July 26, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/generalized-anxiety-disorder/DS00502.