Each 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.
9 Foods That Help Or Hurt Anxiety
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.
“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).
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
- Paxil,?Paxeva, or?Brisdelle (paroxetine)
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
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)
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Which Benzodiazepines Are Used for Anxiety?
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."
Other side effects of?benzodiazepines?may include:
- Blurred vision
- Tiredness or fatigue
What Other Medications Are Prescribed for Anxiety?
- Trouble sleeping
“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.”
Additional reporting by Carlene Bauer.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Locke A,?Kirst?N, Schultz C. Diagnosis and Management of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder in Adults.?American Family Physician. May 2015.
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Mayo Clinic. September 17, 2019.
- Mental Health Medications. National Institute of Mental Health. October 2016.
- Medication.?Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
- SSRIs and Benzodiazepines for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Anxiety and Depression Association of America. May 26, 2020.
- Kennedy K, O’Riordan J. Prescribing Benzodiazepines in General Practice. British Journal of General Practice. 2019.
- Benzodiazepine-Associated Risks. National Alliance on Mental Health. February 2019.
- Buspirone (BuSpar). National Alliance on Mental Health. January 2019.
- Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. July 2018.
- Hydroxyzine (Vistaril, Atarax). National Alliance on Mental Health. January 2019.
- Hydroxyzine. MedlinePlus. March 17, 2021.