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The Many Types of Medication for Anxiety

Written by: Melissa Hart



Medications are Used to Treat Anxiety Symptoms
Medication for anxiety include a wide variety of drugs, each with different purposes, side effects, and strengths. Although medication isn't able to actually cure anxiety disorders per se, many are useful for keeping symptoms under control and may also be used in conjunction with psychotherapy.

Medication for anxiety must be prescribed by a licensed physician or psychiatrist and includes antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and another type of drug known as a beta-blocker.

Antidepressant Medication for Anxiety
Antidepressants are one of the most common types of drugs prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and include the following:

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
This oldest class of medication for anxiety includes phenelzine, tranylcypromine, and isocarboxazid. MAOIs are used to treat anxiety caused by both panic disorders and social phobias.

The major drawback of MAOIs is that they interact with some foods and drink, and many types of medications, possibly causing a dangerous rise in blood pressure. People who take a monoamine oxidase inhibitor aren't able to take certain pain relievers, cold or allergy medications, birth control pills, and a variety of herbal supplements.

Tricyclics
The second oldest class of medication for anxiety is tricyclics, which is often prescribed for panic disorders and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). These drugs are started at a low dosage, and increased over a period of several weeks. Tricyclics include imipramine and clomipramine, which is used to treat anxiety due to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Some side effects of tricyclic drugs include dry mouth, weight gain, and dizziness or drowsiness, but are usually temporary or relieved by a change of dosage.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
The newest class of medication for anxiety referred to as SSRIs cause fewer side effects than the older classes of antidepressants and work by altering the level of the so-called "feel good" chemical serotonin. Serotonin basically acts as a neurotransmitter, helping the cells and synapses of the brain to better communicate with each other.

Some of the most common SSRIs prescribed for the treatment of social phobias and panic disorders include fluoxetine, citalopram, escitalopram, paroxetine, and sertraline. These drugs may cause initial side effects such as nausea, heart palpitations or jitters, as well as the long-term side effect of sexual dysfunction in both males and females.

Antianxiety Medications
Benzodiazepines is a type of medication for anxiety that has few ongoing side effects, but may also cause dependency in some, particularly those who have experienced a drug or alcohol addiction. Some people diagnosed with panic disorders may take benzodiazepines for as long as a year, but these drugs are usually prescribed for shorter time periods.

Medication for anxiety caused by social phobias, panic disorders and GAD include clonazepam, lorazepam, and alprazolam. Buspirone is yet another, newer type of antianxiety medication that must be taken for several consecutive weeks to be effective.

Side effects of these drugs may include headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Some medications may also cause withdrawal symptoms if they are suddenly discontinued, as well as the return or an increase in anxiety levels.

Beta-blockers
Beta-blockers are a type of medication that are sometimes prescribed to treat some of the physical symptoms and effects caused by anxiety. Propranolol, which is usually used to treat certain heart conditions, may prevent some symptoms associated with anxiety caused by social phobias and other panic disorders.

 

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