What are the Different Types of Anti-Anxiety Medications?

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  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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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.


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Post 5

Sneakers and Cupcake, you both have a few errors. First, there is no way to test serotonin and norepinephrine levels, so this idea we have about brain imbalance is based on unproven science. Generously, this is a metaphor for mental illness we do not fully understand.

Second, SSRIs are not always effective against panic disorder. A lot of people don't respond to them, and we're finding more and more that SSRIs and SNRIs both may be less effective for panic and depression.

Also, whether or not agoraphobia develops is only relevant to a few panic disorders, principally panic disorder, but not so much generalized anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one way to go, and it can be a good way, but there are other viable therapies, such as dialectical behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapies, and acceptance and commitment therapy.

Post 4

Sneakers41 - I agree that therapy is always helpful because medication does not teach the person afflicted how to act differently it just masks the symptoms.

They really do need to understand the triggers and only use the medication in extreme situations because some of these medications do have an addictive quality to them.

Exercise, going out with friends and meditating goes a long way in treating anxiety.

Also eating a healthy diet rich in nutrients helps to even out the levels of serotonin in the brain which will actually make you more at ease. Some people also try herbal teas like chamomile in order to unwind and relax when they feel a panic attack coming on.

Post 3

Cupcake15 - I agree that it can be a difficult condition to experience. I know that there are a lot of treatments of panic disorders.

I think that the treatment of panic disorders should include anti depressants in order to treat the symptoms, but some therapy is necessary so that the person could learn to manage what situations make them most anxious.

Seeking treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy can help the person that is suffering from symptoms of anxiety to perform role playing techniques that will train them to create a different result next time they feel an anxious urge.

A cognitive behavioral therapist can also teach relaxation techniques that will allow the patient to be able to go into a hypnotic state so that can relax and work through the anxious feelings even when they are alone.

Post 2

I wanted to say that I recently read that causes of panic disorders are based on the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.

When these chemicals in the brain are out of whack is when the person resorts to panic attacks. It is also hereditary because a person with a family history is seven times more likely to develop the condition.

I also read that up to 50% of the people afflicted with the condition develop agoraphobia which is the fear of going outside.

It must really be a difficult condition to have to deal with because always feeling worried robs you of any happiness.

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