When it comes to anti-anxiety medications, there are many different options available to you. Not all medications are of the same class or have the same effect on every person.
Remember, everyone is different and therefore what works for one person, may not work the same way for the next person. If you do your research ahead of time, you will be able to help your doctor find which anti-anxiety meds would work best for you.
Below are some of the most common anti-anxiety medications:
Benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications on the market today. They work very much like the natural tranquilizers in the brain that keep a person relaxed. However, this class of anti-anxiety drugs can produce a hypnotic effect in high doses and most important, when misused (such as in prolonged over-usage) they are seriously addicting. This class is only meant to be used short term.
- Xanax® (alprazolam)- used for panic, generalized anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, OCD
- Klonopin® (clonazepam)- used for panic, generalized anxiety, phobias, social anxiety
- Valium® (diazepam)- used for generalized anxiety, panic, phobias
- Ativan® (lorazepam)- used for generalized anxiety, panic, phobias
- Serax® (oxazepam)- used for generalized anxiety, phobias
- Librium® (chlordiazepoxide)- used for generalized anxiety, phobias
Beta Blockers are medications that are commonly used for controlling blood pressure. However, these medications also work as effective anti anxiety medications when a medication is needed for situational anxiety. Most commonly, these anti anxiety drugs are effective when taken an hour prior to exposure to an anxiety provoking situation, such as public speaking and other specific phobias. They will limit a racing heart, therefore limiting one of the most bothersome panic sensations which is a racing heartbeat that promotes the fight or flight response in people.
- Inderal® (propranolol)- used for social anxiety, specific phobias
- Tenormin® (atenolol)- used for social anxiety, specific phobias
Tricyclic Anti-Depressants not only work as anti-depressants but they also work well as anti-anxiety medications. These anti-anxiety medications are most commonly used for long term use. As with all anti-depressants, they must never be stopped abruptly, otherwise serious withdrawal symptoms may occur. These drugs should be tapered slowly when a patient wants to come off of them and this is best done under the supervision of a doctor.
- Tofranil® (imipramine)- used for panic, depression, generalized anxiety, PTSD
- Norpramin® (desipramine) - used for panic, generalized anxiety, depression, PTSD
- Aventyl or Pamelor® (nortriptyline)- used for panic, generalized anxiety, depression, PTSD
- Elavil® (amitriptyline) - used for panic, generalized anxiety, depression, PTSD
- Sinequan or Adapin® (doxepin) - used for panic, depression
- Anafranil® (clomipramine)- used for panic, OCD, depression
This anti-depressant is a much older anti-depressant. It is commonly prescribed to older people and people who cannot tolerate the newer anti depressants. This anti-depressant is also commonly used in small doses to help people who have a hard time falling asleep at night. Generally, 50mg at night is an average dose for helping to alleviate insomnia.
- Desyrel® (trazodone)- used for depression, generalized anxiety, insomnia
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors are a much older anti-depressant. Although mainly used for depression, they are also used as powerful anti anxiety medications. This class of drug comes with some food restrictions and has a much longer list of side effects.
- Nardil® (phenelzine) - used for panic, OCD, social anxiety, depression, generalized anxiety, PTSD
- Parnate® (tranylcypromine) - used for panic, OCD, depression, generalized anxiety, PTSD
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are the newest class of anti depressants today. Although they each come with specific side effects, many consider these side effects to be more tolerable than the side effects of older anti depressants. They are known to work well for mild depression. These anti-depressants also work as powerful anti-anxiety medications and are usually recommended for long term use. As popular as these anti depressants are today, they have been known to cause Discontinuation Syndrome which produces withdrawal symptoms when a person tries to get off of them. The most common symptoms are flu-like symptoms, electric shock feelings in the brain and body, anxiety, dizziness, and stomach upset. Some people find it especially difficult to come off this medication and therefore it is very important that this drug is not discontinued abruptly. If you want to withdraw from this medication, it is best done by tapering very slowly under the supervision of a doctor.
- Prozac® (fluoxetine)- used for OCD, depression, panic, social anxiety, PTSD, generalized anxiety
- Luvox® (fluvoxamine)- used for OCD, depression, panic, social anxiety, PTSD, generalized anxiety
- Zoloft® (sertraline)- used for OCD, depression, panic, social anxiety, PTSD, generalized anxiety
- Paxil® (paroxetine)- used for OCD, depression, panic, social anxiety, PTSD, generalized anxiety
- Lexapro® (escitalopram oxalate)- used for OCD, panic, depression, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, PTSD, generalized anxiety
- Celexa® (citalopram)- used for depression, OCD, panic, PTSD, generalized anxiety
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIS)
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors are strong anti depressants that work well for major depression and other mood disorders. They are also used as powerful anti-anxiety medications. Unlike SSRI's which mainly work on building serotonin, SNRI's work on building both serotonin and norepinephrine. They carry the same side effects as SSRI's and also contribute to Discontinuation Syndrome. Withdrawal of this medication should be done very slowly and under the supervision of a doctor.
- Effexor® (venlafaxine)- used for panic, OCD, depression, social anxiety, generalized anxiety
- Effexor XR® (venlafaxine XR) - used for panic, OCD, depression, social anxiety, generalized anxiety
- Cymbalta® (duloxetine) - used for generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic, OCD
This mild tranquilizer is only meant for short term usage. It is an effective anti anxiety medication, however it is not recommended for use longer than 4 weeks. This anti anxiety drug also interacts with grapefruits and grapefruit juice and may produce dangerous effects. So it does come with dietary restrictions.
- BuSpar® (buspirone)- used for generalized anxiety, OCD, panic
Anticonvulsants work by blocking different neurotransmitters in the brain. They have a common goal of preventing seizure activity in the brain. Although these drugs have shown to be somewhat effective for anxiety disorders, they are not usually prescribed for anxiety unless other anti depressants have shown to be ineffective. It is important to note that these anti anxiety medications are in need of more trial testing before recommended solely for anxiety treatment.
- Depakote® (valproate) - shown effective for panic
- Lyrica® (pregabalin)- shown effective for generalized anxiety disorder
- Neurontin® (gabapentin) - shown effective for generalized anxiety, social anxiety
Only You Can Decide
When it comes to anti-anxiety medications, it's important to recognize that only you can decide what is best for you. Medication is never a cure for anxiety. Although they may seem to "take away" your mental, emotional and physical sensations, these medications are meant to work alongside professional therapy.
It is also important to recognize that all these medications come with certain risks and side effects. You need to take all these things into account before making a right decision for yourself.
Many people are uncomfortable taking anxiety and depression medications and instead choose natural remedies for anxiety. Some people find them particularly helpful since they do not produce the same negative side effects as anti anxiety medications do. They are effective and help with the physical symptoms while a person is either in therapy or using self-help methods to get better.
Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn't Teach You and Medication Can't Give You by Richard O'Connor, PhD
Medicines for Mental Health: The Ultimate Guide to Psychiatric Medication by Kevin Thompson PhD. Be sure to read the reviews of this very informative book.