Sed ac ligula ut leo dignissim blandit non at odio. Mauris et odio ut odio elementum fermentum. Nullam dictum diam nisl, vitae euismod erat imperdiet in. Vestibulum ac tristique tortor, non iaculis dolor. Nunc in tincidunt dui. Proin laoreet imperdiet dui et imperdiet. Nam sit amet erat nisl. Nam tristique porttitor risus, at fringilla velit. Aliquam erat volutpEach anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but Ken Duckworth, MD, the chief medical officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston, says many people with these disorders can benefit from this three-pronged approach: psychotherapy, exercise, and medication.
Each person may need a different combination of these three elements, and in different sequences. “There’s no magic in the treatment of anxiety,” says Dr. Duckworth.
“Some people will get better with psychotherapy alone, while some people might need medication to help them concentrate better on the therapy. Anxiety and depression can decrease motivation to exercise, but medication may give you the energy to do it.” Also, says Duckworth, a patient may need more than one medication.
There are several types of medications used to treat anxiety disorders.
Within each of these categories, there are subgroups of drugs that work differently and have their own benefits, risks, and possible side effects.According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, antidepressants are often used as the first line of treatment.
In particular, SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are the kind of antidepressant that is most often prescribed. They make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps maintain mood, become more available to the brain.
These medications often take four to six weeks, or longer, to be fully effective.
“They’re supereffective in treating anxiety disorders,” says Beth Salcedo, MD, the medical director of the Ross Center for Anxiety & Related Disorders and a past board president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It’s not known exactly how SSRIs work on serotonin to alleviate anxiety, says Dr. Salcedo, but what is known is that they’re not addictive like benzodiazepines are (though they can cause uncomfortable symptoms if people stop too abruptly).
It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking any prescription drug. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about the side effects of a medication, or if the drug you’re taking doesn’t seem to be alleviating your symptoms.
Which Antidepressants Are Used for Anxiety?
The two classes of antidepressants most commonly used to treat anxiety disorders are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
Examples of SSRIs include:
- Prozac or Sarafem (fluoxetine)
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
- Paxil, Paxeva, or Brisdelle (paroxetine)
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
Examples of SNRIs include:
Common side effects of both SSRIs and SNRIs may include:
- Nervousness or restlessness
- Reduced sexual desire
- Weight gain or loss
- Dry mouth
Other antidepressants that may be prescribed for anxiety include:
- Wellbutrin, Zyban, Aplenzin, Budeprion, or Buproban (buproprion)
- Tricyclic antidepressants, such as Amitid, Amitril, Elavil, or Endep (amitriptyline); Aventyl, Pamelor (nortriptyline); or Tofranil (imipramine)
Some people respond better to some antidepressants rather than others. You may need to try a few different medications before you find one that works for you.
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Which Benzodiazepines Are Used for Anxiety?
They are usually prescribed for those with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Because they work so quickly, and because people taking them can build up a tolerance that leaves them needing higher doses to feel better, doctors will prescribe them for very short periods of time — usually no more than a month.
Unfortunately, people can become addicted to benzodiazepines, even in a short period of time. If you stop taking them suddenly, withdrawal symptoms may occur, so it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions for tapering off your medication.
They can also be used with antidepressants initially while antidepressants take time to work.
“They’re a powerful tool,” says Duckworth, “but you have to be really smart about their use.” Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include:
Other side effects of benzodiazepines may include:
- Blurred vision
- Tiredness or fatigue
What Other Medications Are Prescribed for Anxiety?
- Trouble sleeping
Some people with phobias or panic disorder may be prescribed a heart medication known as a beta-blocker. These drugs are primarily prescribed for uneven heartbeat and high blood pressure, but they have been found to be helpful for treating the feelings that come with high-pressure situations.
“Beta-blockers can be very helpful but in a limited way,” says Dr. Salcedo. “They are most commonly used for performance anxiety. They are really good for the physical symptoms such as heart racing, sweating, shakiness, but they work less well for the anxious thoughts that might be causing the symptoms.”Beta-blockers are prescribed to be used on an as-needed basis; they’re not taken long-term.
These medications act quickly, like benzodiazepines, but unlike benzodiazepines, they don’t cause addiction.