Commonly Prescribed Anti Anxiety Medications
Anxiety affects so many areas of our lives – it undermines self-esteem, has profound effects on performance at work or school, and can interfere with social relationships.
Help is out there. Anti-anxiety medications have been shown to be effective in reducing the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety disorders, particularly when used in combination with therapy. Below are a few examples of the different types of anti-anxiety medications, their function, and their possible side effects.
Benzodiazepines, also called anxiolytics or tranquilizers, are the most common class of prescribed medication for anxiety. These drugs lower the activity in the central nervous system, thereby sedating and calming the patient. Benzodiazepines also act fast, making them ideal for people who suffer from panic attacks.
Some of the brand names for this type of drug include Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium.
In addition to its use as an anti-anxiety drug, benzodiazepines are also used to treat:
- Seizures (Klonopin, Valium, Tranxene)
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms (Librium)
- Muscle spasms (Valium)
- Agitation (Ativan)
- Insomnia (Ambien, Dalmane, Doral, ProSom, Restoril)
Benzodiazepines come in short-acting and long-acting categories. The difference depends on how quickly they are metabolized by the body, how quickly they work, how long they’re effective, and whether the doses have a cumulative effect.
Long-acting benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium are typically more beneficial for long-term treatments of general anxiety.
When it’s desirable for the effects of medication to wear off quickly – for symptoms such as panic attacks and insomnia, short-acting versions like Restoril or Ambien are preferred.
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants and should be used with caution. In addition to their sedative qualities, additional side effects may include:
- Loss of coordination
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Weak muscles
- Change in appetite
- Dry mouth
Never drive or operate heavy machinery when taking benzodiazepines. These powerful drugs also carry a risk of dependency and abuse. Taking a higher dose is more likely to result in side effects and symptoms of withdrawal.
Gradually reducing the dose over a number of weeks can help lessen the chance of withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, seizures and muscle cramps.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, are the most popular antidepressants prescribed for anxiety. Some familiar SSRIs include Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil. Typically, low doses are prescribed to start, with the dosage increasing gradually. Other antidepressants used to treat anxiety include Tricyclic and MAOIs.
Antidepressants may cause severe side effects, including suicidal thoughts – particularly in children and adolescents. Additional side effects of SSRIs may include:
Side effects of tricyclics may include:
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Bladder problems
- Sexual dysfunction
Specifically, MAOIs can also create a drastic increase in blood pressure, which may lead to stroke. Avoid any foods, medications and other substances which contain tyramine when taking MAOIs.
Beta-lockers, while most commonly prescribed to treat heart conditions and high blood pressure, can also be used to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety including trembling, sweating, and a racing heartbeat.
Side effects of beta-blockers may include:
- Cold extremities
You should not take beta-blockers if you have diabetes or asthma , as they may worsen these conditions.
Regardless which antidepressant you choose to treat anxiety, your doctor should supervise the treatment in order to avoid severe side effects and withdrawal symptoms.
People suffering from anxiety have hope. Anti-anxiety medications help alleviate the feelings of intense worry and fear related to anxiety, in addition to helping treat the physical symptoms. Many people with anxiety live full, productive, and happy lives with the help of medications like benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. Check with your doctor to see if these drugs may be right for you.
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