Common Anxiety Medications Benefits And Harmful Effects

Everything You Need to Know About Common Anxiety Medications

The term anxiety encompasses feelings of worry, fear, and unease. Although it is normal to experience some level of anxiety at times, intense or persistent anxiety may be indicative of an anxiety disorder. According to several large surveys, up to 33.7 percent [1] of people experience some form of anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Common anxiety medications are available to treat anxiety disorders. Doctors may prescribe medication alone or in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or another kind of therapy.

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety medication may help people suffering from intense episodes.

Learn more by taking the “Do I have Anxiety Disorder Quiz”. Find out more about anxiety disorder signs & symptoms. Learn if these anxiety attributes are applicable to your personal situation. Please make sure to always seek the advice of a healthcare professional in diagnosing mental health issues like anxiety.

In the follow-up “Do I have Anxiety Disorder Quiz”, the more times you answered yes on the anxiety disorder quiz, the more likely it is you may suffer from an anxiety disorder. The anxiety quiz questions are designed to indicate an anxiety disorder. But an additional screening for conditions that may complicate anxiety disorders such as depression or substance use may be warranted.

If you believe you suffer from an anxiety disorder, consult your primary care doctor for an exam. The examination can first rule out physical or environmental causes with traits similar to anxiety. Other ailments like ulcers, asthma, or an overactive thyroid, as well as the overuse of substances that can cause anxiety symptoms, especially caffeine, diet pills, or decongestants should be part of an overall anxiety diagnosis review.

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Do I have Anxiety Disorder Quiz

Take the quiz below to learn more about your personal anxiety case. If your anxiety questions responses score 50 points or more, reach out to one of our specialists for further support.

1. Do you feel very anxious or worry about a lot of things?

 
 

2. Do you think you worry excessively?

 
 

3. Do you worry virtually every day?

 
 

4. Have you been worrying like this for 6 months or longer?

 
 

5. Do you find it difficult to stop worrying?

 
 

6. Are you experiencing physical symptoms like restlessness, feeling tired, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or trouble sleeping?

 
 

7. Does worrying negatively impact you at school, work, with friends & family, or in other areas of your life?

 
 

Common Anxiety Medications

Several types of medication can treat the symptoms of anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)[2], the four major classes of drugs for anxiety disorders are as follows:

  1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors: Although selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant, doctors commonly prescribe them to people with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). According to one article[3], doctors consider SSRIs to be the first-line drug treatment for anxiety. SSRIs work by stopping nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing serotonin, which is a chemical that plays a vital role in mood regulation.

Examples of SSRIs for anxiety include:

  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)

These common anxiety medications typically begin to take effect within 2 to 6 weeks[4], but they do not work for everyone. People usually take SSRIs for up to 12 months[5] to treat anxiety, then gradually reduce the dosage. These drugs are not habit-forming, meaning that they do not usually lead to dependence. People should consult their doctor or physician before they start reducing or stopping their medication.

  1. Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors: Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another class of antidepressant that treats depression and anxiety. Doctors may also prescribe them to treat some chronic pain conditions. These common anxiety medications work by reducing the brain’s reabsorption of the chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine.

Examples of SNRIs for anxiety are:

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)

As with SSRIs, SNRIs can take several weeks to have an effect.

  1. Tricyclic Antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are an older class of antidepressant drugs. Although they may be effective for the treatment of depression and anxiety, doctors often prescribe SSRIs instead, as they cause fewer side effects. However, TCAs may be useful for some people, especially if other medications do not provide relief.

Examples of TCAs for anxiety include:

  • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
  1. Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines carry a black box warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous [8].
FDA Warnings
  • Taking benzodiazepines with opioid drugs increases your risk for severe sleepiness, respiratory depression, coma, and even death. Alprazolam shouldn’t be taken with an opioid unless there are no other available treatment options.
  • Using benzodiazepines, even as prescribed, can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal if you stop taking the drug suddenly. Withdrawal can be life threatening.
  • Taking benzodiazepines can also lead to misuse and addiction. Misuse of [drug name] increases your risk of overdose and death.
  • Only take benzodiazepines as your doctor prescribes. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about safely taking this drug.

Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative drug that reduces the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as tense muscles. These drugs also encourage relaxation, and their effects take place within a few minutes.

Benzodiazepines include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
Common Anxiety Medications
Anxiety treatment often includes common anxiety medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and/or psychotherapy, both of which are highly effective.

Although they are highly effective for short-term issues, doctors rarely prescribe benzodiazepines because they become less effective over time and can be addictive. Due to these risks, experts suggest that doctors do not prescribe the continuous use of benzodiazepines for more than 1 month[6]. Some people may take benzodiazepines to manage short-term anxiety. For example, people with a fear of flying may take them before a flight. At times, people may take a benzodiazepine alongside an SSRI for a few weeks until the SSRI takes effect.

Other Medications for Anxiety

Many other medicines may help treat anxiety, although doctors usually only prescribe them if SSRIs or similar drugs do not work. Other medications for anxiety include:

  • Beta-Blockers: Beta-blockers are a common medication for people with high blood pressure and heart conditions. However, doctors may prescribe them off-label for anxiety in certain situations. Beta-blockers reduce the effects of norepinephrine, meaning that they can relieve some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. Examples of beta-blockers include atenolol (Tenormin) and propranolol (Inderal).
  • Buspirone: This anti-anxiety medication may treat short- or long-term anxiety symptoms. Buspirone (BuSpar) works much more slowly than benzodiazepines and may not treat all types of anxiety disorder, but it causes fewer side effects and has a lower risk of dependency.
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors: Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are one of the earliest types of antidepressants. Doctors may prescribe them off-label to treat the symptoms of panic disorder and social phobia. Types of MAOI include:
  • Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
  • Phenelzine (Nardil)
  • Selegiline (Emsam)
  • Tranylcypromine (Parnate)

Side Effects of Common Anxiety Medications

Antidepressants and other drugs for anxiety have the potential to cause side effects in some people. These often resolve after a few weeks, but it is crucial to see a doctor if they are intolerable or do not subside. Some doctors may recommend taking some common anxiety medications with food to minimize side effects, or taking them before bed, as long as the drug does not interfere with sleep. The side effects that a person experiences may vary depending on the type of medication.

Common anxiety medications often have side effects that should not be taken lightly and must be professionally supervised.
Common anxiety medications often have side effects that should not be taken lightly and must be professionally supervised.

SSRIs

The side effects of SSRIs can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling agitated or restless
  • Gaining weight
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Sexual problems or erectile dysfunction
  • Sleep problems
  • An upset stomach

SNRIs

The side effects of SNRIs are similar to those of SSRIs and include:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Sexual problems or erectile dysfunction
  • Sleep problems
  • Sweating more than usual
  • An upset stomach

TCAs

Side effects vary among TCAs, as they work in different ways. Possible side effects include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Increase in appetite
  • Lightheadedness
  • Low blood pressure after standing up
  • Sexual problems or erectile dysfunction
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Tremors
  • Weight loss or gain

Benzodiazepines

These medications can cause several side effects, such as:

  • Blurry vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Loss of memory or concentration
  • Problems with balance, coordination, or speech
  • An upset stomach

Benzodiazepines also carry certain risks. For example, they can cause physical dependence, even after a short period of use. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines may lead to:

  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Sweating
  • Seizures

More severe risks of benzodiazepines may include:

  • Addiction
  • Cognitive decline
  • Hip fractures
  • Motor vehicle accidents, as they can affect a person’s ability to drive
  • Overdose, especially in combination with opioid drugs or alcohol

Beta-Blockers

Possible side effects of beta-blockers include:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Depression
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain

People with asthma should avoid beta-blockers. People with diabetes should take them with caution and speak to a doctor about the possible risks.

Buspirone

The side effects of buspirone may include:

  • Muscle pains
  • Nausea
  • Poor concentration
  • Restlessness or nervousness
  • Sleep problems
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Blurry vision
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches

MAOIs

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) were the first type of antidepressant developed. They’re effective, but they’ve generally been replaced by antidepressants that are safer and cause fewer side effects. Potential side effects of MAOIs include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep problems
  • Sweating
  • Weight gain
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches

These medications also interact with several other drugs as well as some foods and drinks. Anyone taking MAOIs should ask their doctor for a complete list of the medicines, foods, and drinks that they need to avoid.

Suicide Risks of Common Anxiety Medications

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires [7] all antidepressants to carry a black-box warning relating to the risk of suicide in adults. People under 25 years of age may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors while taking these common anxiety medications or antidepressants, particularly within the first few weeks of use.

Common anxiety medications are often the cause of co-occurring disorders with addiction. Seek professional help for anxiety medications and safetiness.
Common anxiety medications are often the cause of co-occurring disorders with addiction. Seek professional help for anxiety medications and safeness.

At We Level Up Florida Treatment Center, we provide world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. In addition, we work as an integrated team providing information about common anxiety medications and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

Sources

[1] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610617/

[2] Adaa.org – https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/what-medications-are-used-treat-anxiety-disorders

[3] Aafp.org – https://www.aafp.org/afp/2015/0501/p617.html

[4] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279594/

[5] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279594/

[6] Aafp.org – https://www.aafp.org/afp/2013/0815/p224.html

[7] NIMH – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/child-and-adolescent-mental-health/antidepressant-medications-for-children-and-adolescents-information-for-parents-and-caregivers.shtml

[8] FDA – FDA requiring Boxed Warning updated to improve safe use of benzodiazepine drug class. (2020).
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-requiring-boxed-warning-updated-improve-safe-use-benzodiazepine-drug-class