Discover effective medication options to manage anxiety. Learn about the different types and their benefits in our complete guide.

Discover effective medication options to manage anxiety. Learn about the different types and their benefits in our complete guide.

Anxiety is a common mental disorder that affects millions of people around the world. It is characterized by persistent feelings of fear, worry, and restlessness, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, tachycardia, and difficulty breathing. Fortunately, there are several medications that can help control and relieve anxiety symptoms.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of medications frequently prescribed to treat anxiety. SSRIs increase levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, in the brain. This helps improve mood and reduce anxiety symptoms. Commonly prescribed SSRIs include fluoxetine, sertraline, and escitalopram. These medications are generally well tolerated and have a lower risk of side effects compared to other classes of anxiety medications.

Important note: It is essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any medication for anxiety. They will evaluate your individual symptoms, medical history, and possible interactions with other medications to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on your specific needs.

In addition to SSRIs, benzodiazepines are another class of medications often prescribed for anxiety. These drugs work by enhancing the action of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps calm excessive brain activity associated with anxiety. Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, lorazepam, and alprazolam, are fast-acting and provide immediate relief from acute anxiety symptoms. However, they are generally prescribed for short-term use due to the risk of dependence and possible side effects, such as drowsiness and impaired coordination.


Drug class Examples Mechanism of action Common side effects
SSRI Fluoxetine, Sertraline, Escitalopram Increase serotonin levels in the brain Nausea, headache, sexual dysfunction
Benzodiazepines Diazepam, Lorazepam, Alprazolam Increase GABA activity in the brain Drowsiness, dizziness, possibility of dependence

It is important to note that the medication alone may not be enough to control anxiety. Complementary therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (TCC), relaxation techniques and lifestyle modifications can significantly improve medication efficiency and promote long-term recovery. Always comment your concerns and treatment options with a qualified healthcare professional to obtain personalized advice and guidance.

Understanding Anxiety Disorders

There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with their own symptoms and triggers. Generalized anxiety disorder (Tag) is a common way, in which people experience excessive concern and anxiety for various daily activities or events. Another is the panic disorder, characterized by sudden episodes of intense fear, accompanied by physical symptoms such as palpitations, difficulty breathing and dizziness.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Affection in which individuals have an extreme fear of social situations and feel very c o-shared or ashamed.
  • Specific phobias: intense fear and avoidance of specific objects or situations, such as heights, spiders or flying.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (TOC): Have unwanted intrusive thoughts and perform repetitive behaviors or rituals to relieve anxiety.
  1. Pos t-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): After a traumatic event, people with PTSD can suffer memories, nightmares and severe anxiety.
  2. Separation anxiety disorder: mainly affects children and consists of excessive fear of separating from a loved one or an attachment figure.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the United States, and affect approximately 40 million adults.

Type of anxiety disorder Main characteristics
Generalized anxiety disorder (Tag) Excessive concern, restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disorders
Panic disorder Recurring panic attacks, intense fear, palpitations, sweating, tremors
Social Anxiety Disorder Extreme fear of social situations, avoidance, shyness, low sel f-esteem
Specific phobias Intense fear and avoidance of specific objects or situations

Common Medications for Anxiety

1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (ISRS):

A common class of prescription medications for anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs increase levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, in the brain. By inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, SSRIs help improve mood and reduce anxiety symptoms.

  • Examples of SSRIs:
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

2. Benzodiazepines:

Another class of medication commonly prescribed for anxiety is Benzodiazepines. These medications work by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA helps reduce excessive brain activity, promoting a feeling of calm and relaxation.

  1. Examples of benzodiazepines:
  2. Alprazolam (Xanax)
  3. Diazepam (Valium)
  4. Lorazepam (Ativan)

3. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs):

SNRIs are another class of medications that are frequently prescribed for anxiety disorders. These medications work by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation and the stress response. By balancing these neurotransmitters, SNRIs can help reduce anxiety symptoms.

Examples of IRSNs:
Name Brand
Venlafaxine Effexor
Duloxetine Cymbalta
Desvenlafaxine Pristiq

It is important to note that these anxiety medications must be prescribed and monitored by a qualified healthcare professional. The choice of medication depends on several factors, such as the person’s specific symptoms, medical history, and possible interactions with other medications. Therefore, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting a new anti-anxiety medication to ensure that the most appropriate treatment plan is established.

Benzodiazepines: An Overview

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for a variety of anxiety disorders, including:

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): is characterized by persistent, excessive, and uncontrollable worry about multiple aspects of daily life.
  2. Panic disorder: consists of recurrent and unexpected panic attacks accompanied by intense fear or discomfort.
  3. Social anxiety disorder (SAD): characterized by extreme fear and avoidance of social situations due to fear of embarrassment or judgment.
  4. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Occurs after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event and involves symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, and severe anxiety.

Benzodiazepines can also be prescribed for the shor t-term treatment of insomnia, muscle spasms and alcohol abstinence symptoms.

However, it is important to keep in mind that, although benzodiazepines are very effective in relieving anxiety symptoms, they also carry certain risks and possible side effects. These medications can cause drowsiness, dizziness and alter cognitive function. Prolonged use or high doses of benzodiazepines can cause dependence, tolerance and symptoms of abstinence when they are left suddenly.

Common benzodiazepines Tradenames
Diazepam Valium
Alprazolam XANAX
Lorazepam Ativan
Clonazepam Klonopin

It is essential to use the benzodiazepines only as prescribed by a healthcare professional and follow the recommended dose and duration of treatment. The abrupt interruption or improper use of these medications may have serious consequences. Regular control and open communication with a healthcare professional are essential to guarantee the safe and effective use of benzodiazepines in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

One of the main advantages of SSRIs is their relatively low risk of serious side effects compared to the oldest antidepressants. This has made them the firs t-line treatment option for anxiety disorders in many patients. Some usual examples of SSRs are fluoxetine (prozac), sertraline (zoloft) and the escitalopram (lexapro).

Important Information:

Efficacy: SSRIs have proven to be very effective in reducing anxiety symptoms in various anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (Tag), Social Anxiety Disorder (TAS) and panic disorder.

Side effects: Although ISRs are usually well tolerated, among the most frequent side effects are headache, nausea, insomnia and sexual dysfunction. It is important to consult the possible side effects with a healthcare professional.

Start of action: SSRs usually take several weeks to achieve their full therapeutic effect. It is important to continue taking the medication as prescribed, even if the initial improvements are not immediately noticeable.

Irs are considered safe and effective for lon g-term use, so they are suitable for people who need continued treatment of anxiety symptoms. However, it is essential to collaborate closely with a healthcare professional to control the effectiveness of medication and adjust the dose if necessary. In addition, the SSRIs should always be taken as prescribed and never interrupted abruptly, since a sudden interruption can cause withdrawal symptoms. With the proper treatment, the SSRIs can significantly improve the quality of life of people who suffer anxiety disorders.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

IRSN are considered the preferred medication class for the treatment of anxiety disorders due to their unique mechanism of action and efficiency. They are usually prescribed for various anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (TAG), panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.

Important information:

  • IRSN should only be taken under the orientation and supervision of a healthcare professional.
  • These medications may take several weeks to achieve their full therapeutic effect.
  • Side effects are possible and may include nausea, dizziness, headache and insomnia.
  • IRSN can interact with other medications, so it is important that you inform your doctor about any other drug you are taking.

Mechanism of action

The IRSN mechanism of action revolves around the inhibition of serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that intervenes in the regulation of mood, sleep and appetite, while norepinephrine plays a role in attention, concentration and alert state.

The IRSn act on the transporters responsible for the reuptake, preventing serotonin and norepinephrine reabsorption in the presynaptic nerve endings. This causes an accumulation of these neurotransmitters in the synaptic space, which allows them to exert their effects for a longer time. By increasing the availability of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, IRSn help regulate mood and reduce anxiety symptoms.

Advantages of IRSN for the treatment of anxiety
  • Effective to reduce anxiety symptoms
  • They can improve mood and general wel l-being
  • They are usually well tolerated by most patients
  • Lower dependency or addiction risk compared to other medications for anxiety.

Beta Blockers for Anxiety

Beta blockers block the effects of adrenaline, a hormone responsible for the body’s “fight or flight” response. By blocking adrenaline, beta blockers can help slow heart rate, lower blood pressure, and reduce tremors and shaking associated with anxiety. This can relieve people who experience physical symptoms such as tachycardia, sweating, or tremors in anxiety-provoking situations.

Important information:

  • Beta blockers should not be used as the sole treatment of anxiety disorders.
  • They are usually prescribed along with therapy or other medications.
  • It is essential to follow the prescribed dosage and not stop taking beta blockers abruptly, as this can cause withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to note that although beta blockers may be effective in managing certain physical symptoms of anxiety, they do not directly address the underlying psychological factors that contribute to anxiety. Therefore, they are often used in conjunction with therapy or other medications to provide a comprehensive treatment.

Advantages of beta blockers for anxiety: Disadvantages of beta blockers for anxiety:
  • Effective in reducing physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and tremors.
  • They can provide quick relief during anxiety-provoking situations
  • Generally well tolerated with minimal side effects
  • They do not address the underlying psychological causes of anxiety
  • They may cause dizziness, fatigue, or low blood pressure as side effects.
  • They are not suitable for people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma or heart failure

Alternative Medications and Therapies

One of the frequently used alternative medications for anxiety is valerian root. This herbal supplement, derived from the valerian plant, has sedative properties that can help relieve anxiety and help you sleep better. Research suggests that valerian root increases the amount of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which has a calming effect on the central nervous system. Although evidence supporting its effectiveness is limited, some people have reported positive effects after using valerian root as a treatment for anxiety.

Natural supplements frequently used for anxiety:

  • valerian root
  • Lavender
  • Passionflower

In addition to natural supplements, various mind-body therapies and relaxation techniques have shown promise in managing anxiety symptoms. Progressive muscle relaxation, for example, involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups to promote a feeling of relaxation and reduce muscle tension. Another technique that is gaining popularity is deep breathing exercises, which focus on breathing slowly and deeply to activate the body’s relaxation response.

Important note: It is essential to consult a healthcare professional or licensed therapist before incorporating medications or alternative therapies into your anxiety treatment plan. They can guide you and ensure that these approaches are safe and suitable for your individual needs.

Mind-body therapies Relaxation techniques
Yoga Progressive muscle relaxation
Meditation Deep breathing exercises
Tai Chi guided imagery

It is important to note that although alternative medications and therapies may provide relief for some people, they should not replace evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or medication prescribed by a healthcare professional. These alternatives can serve as complementary strategies to support general well-being and improve the effectiveness of conventional treatments.

Author of the article
Dr.Greenblatt M.
Dr.Greenblatt M.
Medical oncologist at the Robert Larner College of Medicine, MD, at the University of Vermont

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