Which Medications Are Best for Anxiety Disorders?
The medication your doctor prescribes for your anxiety will depend on your symptoms and type of anxiety disorder.
Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but Ken Duckworth, MD, the medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness 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 orders. "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. (1) SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in particular, are the kind of antidepressants that are most often prescribed. They help make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps maintain mood, become more available to the brain.
These medications often take six to eight weeks, or longer, to be fully effective.
"They're super effective in treating anxiety disorders," says Beth Salcedo, MD, medical director of The Ross Center for Anxiety &RelatedDisordersandboardpresidentoftheAnxietyandDepressionAssociationofAmerica.It'snotknownexactlyhowSSRIs workonserotonintoalleviateanxiety,saysDr.Salcedo,butwhatisknownisthatthey'renotaddictive.
Thetwomostcommonlyusedtypesofantidepressantsfortreatinganxietydisordersare selectiveserotonin reuptake inhibitors(SSRIs)and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors(SNRIs).
Examplesof SSRIs include:
Examplesof SNRIs include:
Sideeffectsofboth SSRIs and SNRIs mayinclude:
- Wellbutrin, Zyban, Aplenzin, Budeprion,or Buproban (buproprion)
- Tricyclic antidepressants,suchas Amitid, Amitril, Elavil,or Endep (amitriptyline); Aventyl, Pamelor (nortriptyline);or Tofranil (imipramine).
Which Benzodiazepines AreUsedforAnxiety?
Commonlyprescribed benzodiazepines include:
Beta-blockersareprescribedtobeusedonanas-neededbasis; they're not taken long-term.
Hydroxyzine (Atarax, Vistaril) is another medication prescribed for anxiety. It’s an antihistamine that’s used to treat allergic reactions, but this particular form of antihistamine has an effect on the processing of serotonin. They act quickly, like benzodiazepines, but, unlike benzodiazepines, they don’t cause addiction.
Additional reporting by Carlene Bauer.
Video: Anxiety Disorders: Treatments and Managing symptoms
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