What Are Anxiety Medications And How Do They Work
Anxiety is a normal and useful response to potentially stressful or dangerous situations. It increases our awareness of what’s going on around us. For most people, anxiety is short-lived and normally goes away once the situation has passed. This is not the case for an estimated 40 million adults in the United States who have some type of anxiety disorder and experience ongoing and unwarranted psychological distress. That distress may also manifest itself in physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, or chest pain.
Anxiety medications include multiple types of drugs that are used to treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders. The three most commonly prescribed types of anxiety medication are
- anti-anxiety medications , and
Antidepressants and anxiolytic medications work primarily by affecting the balance of certain chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. Beta-blockers and other types of drugs are used to address the physical symptoms that may accompany an anxiety attack. First-generation antihistamines are also used to help with anxiety symptoms because they have a sedating effect.
Anxiety disorders are associated with certain chemical imbalances in the brain involving neurotransmitters such as
- norepinephrine, and
- gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA.
These chemicals are associated with an individual’s sense of well-being or with the ability to relax.
How Long Does It Take Anxiety Medication To Work
How quickly you feel the effects of medication will depend on the specific medication you are taking. Generally, medications for short-term anxiety, like benzodiazepines, beta blockers, and hydroxyzine will provide anxiety relief within minutes, but may take up to one hour3,6,8 Medications prescribed for chronic anxiety, like antidepressants and buspirone, may take four to six weeks to feel the effects.7
Cbd Appears To Treat Both Severe And Mild Anxiety Disorders
Many people experience anxiety to some degree. However, it exists on a spectrum. Some people have mild anxiety problems, while others have crippling anxiety that significantly interferes with their daily lives.
CBD appears to help people with varying levels of anxiety problems. For example, a 2015 study by the New York University School of Medicine shows that CBD can be used to treat general anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and many other mental health issues that lead to anxiety.
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Side Effects Of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines reduce anxiety and induce feelings of calm and relaxation.2,3 They can help . While they provide many benefits for short-term anxiety and panic, they can also cause uncomfortable and even dangerous side effects. Because of the possibility of developing a dependence or addiction on benzos, you should always be closely monitored by your healthcare provider while taking these medications, and let them know how these medications are impacting you and making you feel.
When youre benefiting from benzodiazepines, you should feel:10
- More calm
- Dependence, withdrawal and addiction
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The Science Behind Anti
Medically reviewed by Susan Vachon, PA-C on February 4, 2022
Anxiety is a multi-faceted condition, but scientists have found a way to fight back against it with anti-anxiety medication. When you take anti-anxiety medication, youll likely notice your symptoms get a lot better. Theres a reason for that, and its all in the science. Heres a bit more about how both anxiety and the medications that treat it work from a medical perspective.
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Medications To Treat Anxiety
A whopping 31% of U.S. adults will have an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. According to research done by Harvard for the National Comorbidity Survey , anxiety affected an estimated 19.1% of adults in the United States over a year and a half period.
Severe anxiety can be a crippling condition that dominates everything you do. Without proper therapy and anxiety treatment, you may begin feeling overwhelmed and incapable of dealing with your anxiety. The effects of severe anxiety can begin to ripple into every aspect of your daily life.
While we all experience anxiety to some degree at one point or another in life, its not normal for it to start taking over your world. If you find this is the case, maybe its time to start thinking about anxiety medication and seeing an online psychiatrist.
Keep reading to learn more about the best medications for anxiety, what you need to ask before making any decisions, and more on how to deal with anxiety.
How Do I Know If I Need Anxiety Medication
Anxiety, or worry, is common and normal to experience from time to time.1 However, some people experience high levels of anxiety that are hard to manage and affect other areas of their lives on a daily basis. If this is the case, you may be dealing with an anxiety disorder which could benefit from treatment that may include therapy, medication, or both.
Medication isnt a cure for anxiety, but it can help improve anxiety symptoms for many different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.1 If your anxiety is moderate to severe, hard to control, recurrent, and/or affects your ability to function in other areas of your life, then you may benefit from medication.
There are several different types of medications that can help treat anxiety disorders. Finding the right medication for you can take time, so patience is important. Meeting with a therapist while taking medication is also recommended to fully address your symptoms and help you recover.
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Starting An Anxiety Medication Heres 9 Things You Should Know
Many people experience anxiety and take medication to improve symptoms.
Each anxiety medication has unique benefits and possible side effects.
Its recommended to take your anxiety medication as directed by your healthcare provider, even if you dont feel improvements in your symptoms right away.
Most people experience some type of anxiety throughout their life. Some amount of anxiety is normal, but anxiety can often go undiagnosed and untreated.
Anxiety has the potential to affect a persons ability to handle normal daily activities. Its also possible to feel anxiousness or fear while encountering specific situations, objects, or moments. In these types of situations, medications are one option to treat anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are treatable. But treatment can slightly vary, depending on the specific condition and symptoms. Generalized anxiety disorder is a common type of anxiety, but several other anxiety disorders also affect many people.
Here, well talk about things you should know if youre starting a new anxiety medication.
What Is Anxiety Disorder
There is a multitude of anxiety disorders that cause anxiety, worry, and stress due to social interactions, personal health, work, or a particular phobia. Types of anxiety disorders include:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Given that anxiety is one of the most prevalent disorders in the United States there have been several medications developed to assist with treatment. Lifestyle and environmental factors can increase the risk of having anxiety, including increased stress factors caused by health conditions, sleep disorders, work situations, financial troubles, relationship problems, and death of loved ones. In addition, genetics, major depressive disorders, and family trauma may also trigger the onset of anxiety. Given the wide complexity of these issues, different medications aim to address some of the more common symptoms. Individuals are advised to use medication in combination with therapy for the most effective treatment. But what are some of the more common anti-anxiety medications? They can include:
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Ssri Antidepressants For Anxiety
Many medications originally approved for the treatment of depression are also prescribed for anxiety. In comparison to benzodiazepines, the risk for dependency and abuse is smaller. However, antidepressants take up to 4 to 6 weeks to begin relieving anxiety symptoms, so they cant be taken as needed. Their use is limited to chronic anxiety problems that require ongoing treatment.
The antidepressants most widely prescribed for anxiety are SSRIs such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Celexa. SSRIs have been used to treat generalized anxiety disorder , obsessive-compulsive disorder , panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Common side effects of SSRIs include:
- Increased sweating
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The Type Of Cbd Products That You Are Using
There are many different types of CBD products on the market. For example, you can use CBD oils, gummies, vapes, creams, and gels.
The amount of time it takes for CBD to take effect will depend on how it is administered. You can expect to notice the benefits between one and two hours if you administer it orally, such as consuming a capsule, gummy, or oil. On the other hand, you will probably notice the effects in as little as 15 minutes if you use a vape.
How Do I Accept Anxiety
Finding Acceptance With Your Anxiety. teach that your ultimate goal should be to develop a more accepting attitude toward anxiety. Instead of trying to control and eliminate anxious feelings, you should learn how to tolerate them. Imagine that you are giving a speech and feel as though you cant catch your breath.
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Lurking Or Oversharing On Social Media
When youre overlurking on social media, youre comparing yourself to others, which causes stress, says Stephanie Mansour, a certified confidence and lifestyle coach for women and CEO of Step It Up with Steph. Youre grading your self-worth and self-esteem based on what you see from other people, not on your own benchmarks for success and happiness.
Oversharing on social media can also make us very vulnerable, making us more likely to get hurt, according to Lang.
You should really have people earn your trust and respect before you open up and share, Lang says.
Avoid this stressor by setting personal boundaries and only allowing yourself a certain amount of time each day to check social media, Lang says.
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How Will Antidepressants Make Me Feel
Antidepressants should help to improve symptoms of both depression and anxiety.7 While some people worry that they are like happy pills that could cause them to feel emotionally numb, most people who take antidepressants report that they help improve their ability to cope with lifes stressors and enhance their quality of life.11
Rather than improving your symptoms immediately, antidepressants can take one to two months to experience their effects. If you dont notice an improvement in your symptoms after a sufficient period of time, you may have to work with your prescriber on increasing your dose or changing medications. Some people may respond better to certain antidepressants, so you may have to try more than one medication to find the one that works best for you.2
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What Are A Few Key Things I Need To Know About Anxiety Medications
With so many treatment options available for anxiety, its important to understand the differences between medications. Its also helpful to know what to expect when you first start taking them.
Here, well discuss nine things you should know about anxiety medications. This discussion focuses on SSRIs, SNRIs, and benzodiazepines. Buspirone, hydroxyzine, and propranolol are discussed in separate GoodRx articles.
Questions To Ask Yourself And A Mental Health Professional
- Is medication the best option for my anxiety problem?
- Am I willing to put up with unpleasant side effects in return for anxiety relief?
- What non-drug treatments for anxiety might help?
- Do I have the time and am I willing to pursue non-drug treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy?
- What self-help strategies might help me get my anxiety under control?
- If I decide to take anxiety medication, should I pursue other therapy as well?
- Is anxiety really my problem? Or is something else going on, such as an underlying health condition or pain, for example?
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I Need Relief And I Need It Now
So where does that leave you if youre suffering? Even when anxiety relief comes with side effects and dangers, that can still sound like a fair trade when panic and fear are ruling your life.
The bottom line is that theres a time and place for anxiety medication. If you have severe anxiety thats interfering with your ability to function, medication may be helpfulespecially as a short-term treatment. However, many people use anti-anxiety medication when therapy, exercise, or other self-help strategies would work just as well or better, minus the drawbacks.
Anxiety medications can ease symptoms, but theyre not right for everyone and theyre not the only answer. Its up to you to evaluate your options and decide whats best for you.
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Personalize Your Treatment Plan
If your clinician recommends an anti-anxiety medication, ask if pharmacogenetic testing can help personalize your treatment plan based on your genes.
Pharmacogenetic testing with Genomind, for example, looks at 24 genes related to mental health treatment. It provides guidance across 10+ mental health conditions, including anxiety, and 130+ medications to help clinicians determine:
- Which medications may be more likely to be effective
- Which medications may have side effects
- How you metabolize medications for personalized dosing guidance
The Genomind test requires a prescription. Wondering if it can help you? Learn more about Genomind here.
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Should You Treat Anxiety With Medication
Any time you decide to treat a mental health condition with medication including anxiety you want to be confident that you understand all your options. Taking the time to discuss your treatment plan with a psychiatrist, doctor, or other healthcare provider is well worth it. Youll be able to learn more about your options, including what alternatives there are to medication, as well as any potential benefits and drawbacks certain medications might have.
Be sure to have a candid conversation about what medication can mean for you should you decide to take it.
What Are The Treatments For Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Medication for Anxiety
Medication is useful for alleviating the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and is often prescribed in conjunction with other therapies. Some types of anxiety drugs can be habit-forming and are usually prescribed on a short-term or as-needed basis.
Different anxiety disorders have different medication regimens. Some are preventive and some are designed to cure the problem.
Antidepressants, particularly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , are widely used to treat and prevent a variety of anxiety disorders. Examples of SSRIs that are commonly used to treat chronic anxiety include citalopram , escitalopram , fluoxetine , paroxetine , and sertraline . The antidepressantsduloxetine and venlafaxine , SNRIs which act on the brain chemicals serotonin and norephinephrine, and some of the tricyclic antidepressants like imipramine , may also help. Novel antidepressants such as mirtazepine are also prescribed at times.Ã
Another anti-anxiety drug is busprirone . It has fewer side effects than the benzodiazepines and is not associated with dependence. Buspar, however, can have its own side effects and may not always be as effective when a person has taken benzodiazepines in the past.
Therapy for Anxiety
Lifestyle Modifications to Alleviate Anxiety
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- How will the medication help my anxiety?
- What are the drugs common side effects?
- Are there any food and drinks I will need to avoid?
- How will this drug interact with my other prescriptions?
- How long will I have to take the anxiety medication?
- Will withdrawing from the medication be difficult?
- Will my anxiety return when I stop taking the medication?
Anna Glezer, M.D. is a Harvard-trained clinician with joint appointments in the reproductive psychiatry and OB/GYN departments at UCSF Medical Center. She is the founder of Mind Body Pregnancy.
Concerns & Dangers Of Anxiety Medication
While benzodiazepines can be highly effective at reducing anxiety and panic, they also pose serious risks.3 When taken over time, you can become dependent on these medications, where your body relies on the medication to function effectively.13 This can cause an increased tolerance, where you feel like you need more of the medication to feel the desired effects.
You might also experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to quit cold turkey or cut back. Withdrawal symptoms can include increased anxiety, difficulty sleeping, cravings, hallucinations, and seizures. Benzo withdrawal can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Therefore, you should always speak with your healthcare provider before stopping these medications or reducing your dose.
Benzos can also cause psychological dependence and addiction.13 If youre addicted, you may put benzos before other important things in your life, like your family and work. You might find yourself taking more than youd like and have a hard time controlling your use. If this is the case, you might need to get professional treatment to quit safely.
To use benzos safely, be sure to meet with your healthcare provider regularly, take your medications exactly as prescribed, and only use benzos for short periods of time.
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