What is the Best Medication for Anxiety?

November 13, 2020

Everyone experiences anxiety at one point or another, but for most people, the experience is short-lived and fleeting. When feelings of anxiety persist for an extended period of time, they can begin to impact your quality of life and may require treatment with medication. 

There are numerous medical treatment options for anxiety, and the best medication for anxiety will vary from person to person.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the way that the body naturally responds to situations that are stressful, new, or potentially harmful. The body uses anxiety as a powerful tool to keep us alert, aware, and prepared for “fight or flight,” but it can become debilitating in certain situations. 

People experience anxiety as a feeling of nervousness, dread, uneasiness, or distress, and the triggers for the condition vary. As noted above, anxiety is experienced by everyone at some point, but people are said to have an anxiety disorder when they experience these feelings in an intense form or for an extended period of time. 

There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobia-related disorders, including social anxiety disorder
  • Trauma-related disorders, including post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD

Each of the anxiety disorders listed above has different triggers or events that bring about an onset of symptoms, and each has slightly different symptoms. 

However, in general, the symptoms of anxiety include the following:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Rapid breathing
  • Trouble concentrating

People who experience anxiety disorders have numerous treatment options, including talk therapy, exercise, meditation, and the use of medications. While there is no cure for anxiety, treatments can help patients manage symptoms. There are several different categories of medications used for the treatment of anxiety.

What is the best medication for anxiety?

Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer when it comes to naming the best medication for anxiety. The best medication for anxiety is the one that works best for you, and the medication that will work best depends on the type of anxiety you have, what your symptoms are, and your unique brain chemistry.  

There are three main types of anxiety medications, including benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and other medications. Each of these categories is described below.

Benzodiazepines

The most commonly prescribed type of anxiety medication is benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines, sometimes referred to as tranquilizers, are fast-acting medications that are intended for short-term use and typically provide relief from symptoms within 30 to 60 minutes. 

Because of their quick action, benzodiazepines are most appropriate for controlling panic attacks or overwhelming anxiety episodes. This type of medication can be physically addictive because it slows down the nervous system, causing mental and physical relaxation. Therefore, these are not recommended for long-term treatment. 

Because benzodiazepines are so powerful, they commonly cause side effects that affect how people function on a daily basis. 

Common side effects of benzodiazepines include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory problems
  • Stomach upset
  • Blurred vision

Common benzodiazepines include:

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)

Antidepressants

Despite the name, antidepressants are useful for treating more than just depression. Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants, have a lower risk of dependency compared to benzodiazepines, and they are intended for long term use. 

Since patients need to take antidepressants for up to four to six weeks before the medication begins relieving anxiety symptoms, they are best used for the treatment of chronic anxiety disorders. 

They are often prescribed in conjunction with benzodiazepines so that patients can receive short term relief from the benzodiazepines while waiting for their antidepressant medications to take effect.

Common side effects of antidepressant medications include:

  • Fatigue
  • Agitation
  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Headache
  • Increased sweating

Antidepressant medications that are commonly used to treat anxiety include:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Zoloft (sertraline) 
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Anafranil (clomipramine)
  • Tofranil (imipramine)

Antidepressant medications do not work quickly to treat anxiety, so they cannot be taken on an as-needed basis the way that benzodiazepines can. While their risk of physical dependence is lower, patients can experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping use of the medication too quickly or lowering their dose abruptly. Patients should only stop using antidepressants under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Other Medications

Other medications are also used for the treatment of certain types and symptoms of anxiety. 

Buspirone, also known as BuSpar, is an anti-anxiety drug that functions as a mild tranquilizer and increases the levels of serotonin in the brain, similar to an SSRI. Unlike SSRIs, buspirone has minimal withdrawal effects, and compared to benzodiazepines, it is not as sedating. The medication takes about two weeks to start working, placing it squarely between antidepressants and benzodiazepines, and it is used for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. 

Another type of medication that can be used to treat the symptoms of anxiety is beta blockers. Beta blockers are generally used for the treatment of high blood pressure and heart problems but can also be used for treating the physical symptoms of anxiety, including rapid heart rate, sweating, shaky hands, and dizziness. Beta blockers are best suited for treating phobias because they do not control the emotional and mental symptoms of anxiety but work well on the physical symptoms. 

The Best Medication is One Specific To You

If you are unsure which medication you need for your anxiety, we recommend seeking the guidance of a mental health professional. At YANA, our doctors will help find the best medication suited for you.

YANA is an online mental health clinic that matches you to a doctor who can evaluate what’s going on, and work with you to build a treatment plan that’s specific to you and your needs, including prescription medication if necessary. 

Our services are a lot more affordable than traditional mental health clinics or specialists, and if you’re new to the mental healthcare world, you can rest easy knowing we’ll guide you every step of the way, discreetly and carefully, to help you get back to where you want to be. 

If you’re still a little hesitant to get started, check out our FAQ for some extra insight. 

When you’re ready, get started with us here to receive the mental healthcare you deserve, on your own terms. 

Sources:

https://www.anxiety.org/what-is-anxiety

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/anxiety-medication.htm 
https://vitalrecord.tamhsc.edu/which-anti-anxiety-medication-is-right-for-me/