Anxiety Medications: Types, Effects, and Precautions
Many people experience feelings of anxiety occasionally. For instance, it’s natural to feel nervous on a first date or a public speaking engagement, but those feelings usually subside relatively quickly. For people with anxiety disorders, however, the feelings can be so intense and so long-lasting that they disrupt daily life.
Anxiety affects nearly 20% of the adult population in the US, making it the most common type of mental illness. There are many ways to treat chronic anxiety disorders, and the treatment that is best for you will likely depend upon your therapist’s diagnosis.
Anxiety medications are an effective treatment option for some patients, and in most cases, especially extreme cases where the individual can’t care for themselves or interact with other people, medication is used in conjunction with psychotherapy. In cases of both mild and severe anxiety, psychiatrists and doctors usually prescribe anti-anxiety medications to give you the support you need as you learn practices and techniques to reduce and deal with anxiety.
There are several distinct types of anxiety disorders that doctors may prescribe medication for:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Acute Stress Disorder
Substance-induced Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety Related to a Medical Condition
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
A doctor will decide what type of anti-anxiety medication works best with your physiology and the type of symptoms you experience. Therefore, it’s essential to give your doctor a full medical history and medication list. If you have other medical conditions, certain anxiety medications might cause complications.
When you talk to your doctor about deciding on an anxiety medicine for you, they’ll likely ask you if you have a history of:
Heart, liver, or kidney disease
A bleeding or clotting disorder
Seizures or epilepsy
A recent heart attack
Seniors, teens, and children have different medical needs and will likely receive different suggestions for which medications are best for them.
Types Of Anxiety Medication
There are a few popular categories of anxiety medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), beta-blockers, and benzodiazepines.
SSRIs and SNRIs work to increase the serotonin levels in your brain. Common SSRI brand names include Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Luvox, and Zoloft. Rather than giving you a quick feeling of calm within a half hour or so like some other antianxiety meds, these drugs are designed to work more gently, smoothly, and steadily.
Beta-Blockers are initially designed to treat heart problems and high blood pressure. They're also used as anti-anxiety medications because they reduce the fight-or-flight stress response. Beta-blockers help most with the physical symptoms of anxiety, including dizziness, shakiness, sweating, a trembling voice, and rapid heart rate. They are often used as a medication for social anxiety.
Benzodiazepines are mostly used to treat immediate symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks. Other than in extreme cases, they aren’t usually prescribed for long-term use. They can be addictive, and benzodiazepines can cause increased anxiety, insomnia, a pounding heart, and even seizures when you withdraw from them. For this reason, they need to be reduced gradually before being discontinued.
Effects And Side Effects Of Anxiety Medication
Different anxiety medications work differently, and knowing the specific effects and side effects of anti-anxiety medications can help you have an informed discussion with your doctor about them. Common anxiety medication side effects include, but aren’t limited to:
Suicidal thoughts or actions
Considerations When Choosing Medications For Anxiety
After they’ve reviewed you and your family’s medical history and have conducted a medical examination, your doctor will evaluate a few other things when determining the kind of medication that will be best for you specifically.
They will diagnose the type of anxiety you have, as different medications are suited to treat different kinds of anxiety. They will evaluate the severity of your symptoms and whether you’d be best suited for fast-acting or extended-release medications (or both). They’ll also likely determine if you struggle with addictions and if you experience symptoms of other disorders like depression.
Prescription Medication Alternatives
Studies suggest that herbal supplements containing ingredients like L-lysine, L-arginine, and magnesium can help ease symptoms of anxiety. These are widely available over the counter at your local drugstore or supermarket. These types of supplements typically have few side effects, but they’re also not usually as effective for treating anxiety as prescription medications. Always report any supplements you take to your doctor, as some herbal supplements can cause complications when mixed with other medications.
Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and mindfulness meditation have been connected to the relief of anxiety symptoms. These are excellent supplemental activities to add to your doctor’s treatment plan.
Anxiety medications have revolutionized the way that people with anxiety disorders function in the world. For many with severe cases of anxiety, medications can mean the difference between self-imposed isolation and leading a normal life.
But studies show that the most effective form of treatment for anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). A psychotherapist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can provide a framework for a workable treatment program where the patient can unearth the sources of their feelings of anxiety to understand them. Once the sources are identified, the therapist will work carefully with the patient to process the feelings associated with them and develop techniques to move past them. The final goal is to provide the patient with coping skills to handle their feelings of anxiety when they emerge and put them into perspective, thus giving them the tools they need to live productively on a day-to-day basis.
Despite the effectiveness of therapy in treating anxiety disorders, some people don’t go to therapy. The reasons for this are varied and depend on the individual, but they most often include issues around accessibility and scheduling conflicts.
But for people struggling with the symptoms of anxiety, particularly social anxiety, it can be extremely difficult to summon the strength to leave the house on some days, much less travel to and from a therapist’s office where one will potentially encounter other patients and staff. Some people don’t feel comfortable speaking to the therapist in person for fear of judgment or personal concerns.
The best solution to these barriers for people with anxiety is speaking with a therapist on an online platform such as BetterHelp. BetterHelp makes it possible for licensed counselors to work with you wherever you are on your schedule. And you can speak with a counselor via phone, text, online chat, or video call from anywhere you feel comfortable. Online therapy is safe and affordable, and studies find that it’s as effective as in-person therapy for treating anxiety disorders, depression, and more.
If you’re ready to get treatment, BetterHelp can match you with an experienced therapist who can help you manage your symptoms and develop a plan for coping with them in day-to-day life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What is the major effect of anti-anxiety drugs?
As with any drug in psychiatry, anti-anxiety drugs can have adverse side effects during the treatment of anxiety. By far and wide, the biggest effect of anti-anxiety drugs is over-sedation. Should you notice any side effects, such as blood pressure changes or dry mouth, speak with your licensed medical professional as soon as possible.
How do anti-anxiety meds affect the brain?
Anxiety disorder medications are used to treat the symptoms of anxiety disorder. The most prescribed medication are antidepressants, anxiolytics, and beta blockers. Antidepressants and anxiolytics target the chemical balance of the brain, whereas beta-blockers address the physical symptoms one may experience. Anxiety disorder is often associated with a chemical imbalance of the brain, such as with serotonin or norepinephrine. Anti-anxiety medication, such as serotonin reuptake or norepinephrine reuptake, rebalances the chemistry of the brain to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
What is the best medication for anxiety and panic attacks?
There are a wide variety of medication options for anxiety and panic attacks. Many people are prescribed a type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Occasionally, a person may be prescribed benzodiazepines that act as a sedative for the nervous system, though these are typically only used for a short time due to their habit-forming potential. In general, the above medications have proved to be beneficial for those living with social anxiety disorder as well as alternative panic disorders.
Is anti-anxiety medication bad for you?
Anti-anxiety medication can be extremely beneficial in helping a person living with symptoms of anxiety disorder. Various reuptake inhibitors can help rebalance the chemicals in the brain, or medication such as beta blockers can treat the physical symptoms of a panic disorder. As with all medication, there are some health risks to these forms of treatment. Heart rate issues, dry mouth, and other health care concerns are all common side effects. Medication affecting the brain, such as inhibitors SSRIs or inhibitors SNRIs, have led to drops in blood sodium levels in studies. Additionally, tricyclic antidepressants have been known to cause drowsiness as well. Be clear with your healthcare provider if you or a loved one experiences any serious side effects.
What helps severe anxiety?
There are three main routes to help treat severe anxiety: psychotherapy, medication, and natural remedies. Starting with the first item, a licensed professional can help anyone living with anxiety sort through their emotions and provide medical advice for the treatment of anxiety, such as any common side effects a person may experience during treatment. A licensed professional may also prescribe medication for the treatment of anxiety, such as beta-blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, inhibitors SSRIs, inhibitors SNRIs, or others that can help reduce the symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
Do anti-anxiety meds change your personality?
When taken properly, anti-anxiety meds will not change your personality in a drastic way. Some studies suggest that certain meds, such as inhibitors SNRIs or tricyclic antidepressants, may have the common side effect of making a person more outgoing and energized. This can be a benefit for those living with social anxiety disorder. Medications such as beta-blockers, though, will likely not influence personality, considering they treat physical symptoms such as blood pressure.
Can you ever get rid of anxiety?
Anybody can develop a challenging anxiety disorder that takes a toll on mental health. Anxiety can go away, but it never disappears permanently. Anxiety is a perfectly natural feeling that can occur in anyone during a stressful situation. The overwhelming anxiety that can result from an anxiety or panic disorder, though, can be treated so that anybody can face stressful situations and feel all right. During the diagnosis or treatment of an anxiety disorder, a licensed professional may prescribe medication such as beta-blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that can help manage mental health issues.
Does anxiety medication help with physical symptoms?
Yes, medication for an anxiety disorder may be able to help with physical symptoms. For example, beta-blockers specifically target the physical symptoms of anxiety, greatly reducing the effects of social anxiety disorder, performance anxiety, and more. Drug interactions that occur with the brain can also positively impact physical symptoms.
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