Anxiety, panic and nervousness may result from conditions like social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or post traumatic stress (PTSD). Due to the range of causes for long-term problems with anxiety, there are a number of types of anti-anxiety medications. Some may be more effective than others depending upon your diagnosed condition. Most kinds of anti-anxiety medications are not used alone, and those suffering from debilitating anxiety are strongly advised to pursue therapy also to address and help recover from conditions that can cause things like panic attacks, rapid heart rate, shallow fast breathing, lack of sleep and the like.
Since anxiety has many causes, each person may be offered different types of anti-anxiety medications. There are a few classes that these medications fall into. Chief among them are temporary treatments for anxiety and stress in the form of benzodiazepines. These are a variety of drugs that often fell under the heading of “tranquilizers” before, and they must be taken with caution because they are highly addictive. They include: alprazolam (Xanax®), clonazepam (Klonipin®), lorazepam (Ativan®), and diazepam (Valium®).
Some of these medications act effectively in a short period of time, like Xanax®, but tend to be poor choices for long-term use. People may have trouble with Xanax because the body builds a tolerance to the medication, making it less effective and creating the need to take more as time goes on. As an occasional use medication it does tend to be very helpful, and may be particularly helpful for dealing with occasional bouts of panic. For long-term use, clonazepam is usually more helpful.
All the benzodiazepines, as types of anti-anxiety medications, must be monitored carefully. You should not stop taking regularly prescribed benzodiazepines without a doctor’s guidance or use them in a manner not specifically prescribed. They should moreover never be used in combination with alcohol because this can be highly dangerous.
A number of the newer antidepressants have been used as anti-anxiety medications and may treat GAD, social anxiety or OCD. These fall into the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class or the atypical antidepressant class. Among these, paroxetine (Paxil®) and venlafexine (Effexor®) are most commonly prescribed for social or generalized anxiety disorder. For OCD, Paxil®, fluoxetine (Prozac®), setraline (Zoloft®) or fluvoxamine (Luvox ®) are most commonly prescribed. These medications need to be taken daily and are not for occasional use like the benzodiazepines. They also may require some time when first taken to become effective.
One medication, buspirone (Buspar®) is used for the specific treatment of anxiety, and unlike the benzodiazepines it is not addictive. Some people find the medication very effective while others find it has little effect or actually makes anxiety worse. Another potential mode of treatment is to take beta-blockers, since some have been shown effective in reducing anxiety. In particular, propanolol (Inderal®) and atenelol (Tenormin®) may be used to treat social anxiety.
Use of some types of anti-anxiety medications may lead to the realization that the underlying condition affecting a person is not generalized anxiety disorder. People with undiagnosed bipolar conditions may find that SSRIs make them much more anxious, restless, or induce manic and hypomanic states. Racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, restlessness, suicidal thoughts, and more anxiety as a result of taking an SSRI warrants a trip to your psychiatrist or doctor immediately to discuss the possibility that you may suffer from a bipolar condition. The treatments for bipolar conditions are very different and require a different set of medications than do those for anxiety disorders.