How Do I Choose the Best Type of Anti-Anxiety Medication?

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  • Written By: C. Webb
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2018
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Suffering with anxiety can be life altering. Possible consequences of severe anxiety disorder include an inability to work, parent, or socialize. Less severe cases can also negatively affect your quality of life. Anti-anxiety medication can help you gain control of the disorder and allow you to function. Choosing the right medication should be based on the type of anxiety you have and whether you have a propensity for addiction.

The three most commonly used medications or supplements for the treatment of anxiety are prescription benzodiazepines, prescription BuSpar®, and over-the-counter herbs. While benzodiazepines such as Xanax® and Valium® have proven effective in the treatment of anxiety, they can be highly addictive. BuSpar® is a non-narcotic anti-anxiety medication that is not addictive, but it reportedly is not always as effective as other medications. Herbs are typically used by those who want to avoid the negative qualities of prescription medications or use the homeopathic route to treat their anxiety.

To choose the best anti-anxiety medication, you should know which anxiety disorder you have been diagnosed with. Panic disorder, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are examples of commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders. The prescription drug alprazolam is typically used for panic disorder, while Valium® is is usually prescribed for social anxiety.


BuSpar® takes several weeks to build up in your system. It is usually prescribed for patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). If you have GAD, or if you have addictive tendencies or addiction runs in your family, this may be the best medication choice for you. It is non-addictive and non-narcotic. It is also used for teenagers and children too young for prescription narcotic anxiety medications.

The antidepressant Zoloft® is also used in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as well a panic disorder. This prescription is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and non-narcotic. It works on anxiety by reducing obsessive thoughts and eliminating panic attacks.

Though herbal supplements are not technically medications, they are supported by the National Institutes of Health as an effective treatment for anxiety. Chamomile, valerian, and passion flower have all been shown to ease anxiety symptoms. Herbs can interact with other medications, so before starting herbal treatments, check with your doctor or the pharmacist.

In choosing the best anti-anxiety medication, examine your diagnosis, the cost factor, and medication goals. Discuss these with your doctor and determine which medication route is right for you. Stopping any anti-anxiety medication should be done under medical supervision. Switching from one treatment to another should also be monitored by your doctor.


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Post 15

Clonazepam is the best for my panic attacks and severe anxiety I've had for 40 years. I wish I'd had it when I was in high school, maybe I wouldn't have had to drop out and become a recluse.

Since I’ve been on it, I’ve held jobs (not great ones) and have been able to drive out of town and also go into different stores without feeling like I’m going to die. This is the only one I’ll ever want to take. My doctor put me on this and atenol 19 years ago. I was taking serax before that, he said I’d be taking it for the rest of my life, and I hope so too, because I want to be able to live like normal people forever.

Oh, sometimes I’ll get anxious, but these do work and if I have to up my dose during one part of the day, I’ll cut back later.

Post 14

I took Paxil for over 10 years and had some intimate side effects so I asked my doctor how to filter those out and he put me on Buspar. The problem I have now is that I get head numbness and it's very bothersome. It almost adds to the anxiety.

I tried stopping Buspar and my Paxil alone wouldn't work anymore. So I stuck it out with Buspar but now it seems that any changes in my dose schedule (like during the holidays) triggers the medication to stop working altogether, and I have to wait weeks for it to start working again. Has anyone out there experienced something similar? Any advice?

-- Jay

Post 13

On the advice of my doctor, I have stopped Effexor and started Buspar on the same day. This has been an extremely difficult and miserable transition for me and I can honestly say I have never felt this bad.

I have so many horrible side effects: the brain zaps, dizziness, upset stomach, headache, and anxiety and crying spells. I almost feel a little hopeless and frightened as to what lies ahead.

Was this the right decision to stop one and add another the same day? I don't know if all these side effects are from withdrawal or starting the Buspar. If someone has been dealing with something similar, I sure could use some encouragement. I have only been on the Buspar for five days, 5mg twice a day. I was on 75mg of Effexor for seven weeks.

Post 11

My sister was having anxiety attacks so severe that she had to miss work. The bad thing is that they would often hit her while she was driving to work, and she would have to call our mother to come and pick her up. She would pull over on the side of the highway, and I would have to ride back with my mother later to pick up her car.

She could not function normally anymore. She finally went to her doctor, and she placed her on Zoloft. This has helped her so much.

She has been on it for years now without any problems. If she misses a dose, she does get anxious, so she is very dependent on it. However, if it works, I don't see any reason for her to stop taking it.

Post 10

@wavy58 – It's always great when natural remedies work as well or better than prescription drugs. I don't like taking pills that are full of chemicals, so I decided to try chamomile tea instead.

The dried leaves and flowers are packaged into tea bags and sold at health food stores. They have a strong aroma, and the tea is not sweet unless you put some honey in it, which I like to do.

If I drink the tea hot, it seems to calm me more. I like drinking it before bedtime, because it seems to help me sleep.

Chamomile tea is also good at relieving menstrual cramps. Since I generally have more anxiety during my period, the tea serves double duty.

Post 9
I couldn't take strong anti-anxiety medicine, because I knew that I would become addicted to it. I have had problems with addictions to painkillers in the past, and I didn't want to go through something like that again.

So, I started taking St. John's wort. This natural herb comes in a capsule, and you can take two a day.

It really mellowed me out. I stopped have episodes of severe anxiety, and my high-strung personality gave way to a laid-back vibe. It was really nice!

However, some of my friends have complained that I act like a stoner now. I think it is a good change, even if the fact that I can finally relax bothers my anxious friends.

Post 8

I was having a lot of problems with anxiety and social interaction after starting my new job. I felt nervous and fearful all the time, because I didn't know anyone in the office, and I was a natural introvert, anyway.

My doctor put me on Paxil. I was amazed at the difference it made in me. Suddenly, I had no problem talking with my coworkers, and I just didn't get nervous and fearful like I did before.

Unfortunately, I had to quit taking it. The medication started causing my heart to skip beats, and I began feeling very faint after standing from a squatting position.

My doctor weaned me off of it by reducing my dosage a little at a time, though. If you quit cold turkey, there is danger of you becoming very suicidal, even if it's something you have never thought about.

Post 7

No matter what type of anti-anxiety medication you take, I know from experience how important it is to take it slow when you are going off one. This has to be a very slow, methodical process, or you can really mess your body up.

I was feeling so much better and decided I didn't need the medication anymore so I just stopped taking it. This was a big mistake, and I really learned my lesson.

Even if you are going off one medication to start a new one, you should do this slowly and make sure your doctor knows exactly what you are doing. These medications can make a positive difference in how you feel, but if you use them the wrong way, they can really mess you up even more.

Post 6
I have used a couple different anti-anxiety medications in the past, but just didn't like the way they made me feel. Even though I felt more even-tempered when I was on them, I also felt like I couldn't experience happy emotions either. I missed being able to enjoy a good laugh.

I began doing some research to find out what alternative remedies I could find for my anxiety. I started taking valerian at night before I went to bed. Not only does this help with my anxiety, but also helps me sleep better as well.

During the day if I feel like I am getting too anxious, I will also use some Lavender essential oil to help me relax and calm me down.

Post 5

I was not surprised when I started having problems with panic attacks. Both my mom and sister have struggled with the same thing, so this must be something that is genetic.

Later on, I also found out my grandma had some of the same problems, but this wasn't talked about or dealt with back then like it is today.

I have always been somewhat of a shy person, but I was getting to the point where most any kind of social situation would throw me into a panic. For years I knew my Mom had used Valium, but I didn't want something that was known to be addictive.

My doctor started me out on Zoloft and that

is what I still take today. I feel like if I didn't take this, I would be isolated in my house, and that seems to make the situation worse. If I stay consistent with the medication, I can still live my life without so much fear of being socially active.
Post 4

I have had to work very closely with my doctor to find the best anti-anxiety medication for me. This has been a slow, frustrating process, but I finally found one that worked without giving me a lot of side effects.

Each person is unique in how they react to particular medications and I am glad there is more than one choice available. I wanted to take something that wasn't addictive, but yet gave me the results I needed to live a good quality of life.

BuSpar ended up being the medication that worked better than anything else I have tried. It didn't have an immediate effect, but over time I finally started to feel like my old self again.

Post 3

@ysmina-- I'm living in Europe for a year and I was recently diagnosed with GAD by a doctor here. He prescribed a medication called essitalopram (generic name). I don't know if this medication is available in the US, but it has been working great for me.

I absolutely agree with you that people respond to medications differently. Even medications with the same active ingredient can have different affects. The first essitalopram brand I was given, Eslorex, gave me a lot of side effects like difficulty sleeping, migraines, fatigue and yawning. When I told the doctor, he switched me to Ciplorex, a different brand anti-anxiety medication with the same active ingredient.

I haven't had any side effects with this

one and my anxiety, which was moderately severe when I started taking it, has simply disappeared. And I'm not even taking a very high dose. So if one medication doesn't work for you, ask your doctor to switch you to another one. There are many medications out there and there is bound to be one that will help you.
Post 2

@ysmina-- I took it for about eight months several years ago, when my anxiety was still mild. I did have good results with it, but it took several months to be effective. I think it takes some time for anti-anxiety medications to show their effect, so you have to be patient with it.

After about seven months, I started getting heart palpitations because of BuSpar and my anxiety got worse during the same time period because of a death in my family. So my doctor switched me to Xanax. Xanax is definitely far stronger than BuSpar and it does have more side effects. But it was what I needed at that time.

Right now I don't use anything. I've been trying to beat anxiety with alternative methods like yoga and meditation.

Post 1

My doctor prescribed BuSpar for me two weeks ago for mild anxiety. I've been using the medication since then but haven't had any improvement. I was speaking to a colleague about it at work and it turns out she's used this medication in the past. She said that BuSpar didn't do anything for her and that it's basically useless.

Just wondering, has anyone here tried it and feel the same? I don't think everyone's experience with a medication could be the same. So I'm definitely not going to cross this drug off my list because someone said it's useless. But if many people have had the same experience, that's a different story.

I think I'm going to keep

taking it for a couple of more weeks and if I see no difference, I will go back to my doctor and request a different medication. Meanwhile, if anyone wants to share their experience with this drug or other anti-anxiety medications, please do. I'm looking forward to reading replies.

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