A Complete Guide to the Best Medication for Anxiety

 

Do you continually feel nervous or restless, feel a sense of impending danger, or find yourself breathing rapidly or have difficulty concentrating? These are all common symptoms of anxiety that many people might experience during their daily lives. If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you might have wondered if there were an immediate solution to calm your anxiety.

Well, yes, there is a somewhat immediate solution. Anxiety medication can provide you with immediate relief and manage your symptoms faster than other types of treatment.

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It is completely normal to experience an occasional bout with anxiety. After all, life can be full of ups and downs at times. Sometimes feeling a little anxious can be a good thing because it can motivate us to work a little harder to achieve our goals, such as taking the time to study for a college midterm or putting in extra hours to finish a work project.

However, the danger begins when what seemed like normal anxiety begins to spin out of control and becomes more intense and out of proportion. The increase in anxiety can become disruptive to your personal, social, and professional life. This is when professional help is definitely needed, and it could result in a diagnosis of one or more types of anxiety disorders.

Anxiety-related disorders are the most common mental health problems that people throughout the world may experience. Because of the rapid increase of such disorders, substantial research has been done to investigate treatments and medications to help those suffering from anxiety.

In this guide, we explore the best medication options available for anxiety and its possible side effects. We will also discuss what other treatments are available for patients with anxiety.

 

1. Everything to Know About Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can be defined as chronic conditions that involve intense and persistent episodes of apprehension. These episodes often involve physical symptoms such as feeling breathless, heart palpitations, excessive sweating, or stress.

It is estimated that the prevalence of anxiety disorders throughout the world ranges between 2.5 to 7 percent. According to the World Health Organization, in 2017, there were an estimated 284 million people across the globe suffering from anxiety. This makes it one of the most common mental health conditions.

In this section, we will discuss what is known about anxiety-like symptoms, types, and causes. This information helps develop a better understanding of the best medications for treating anxiety.

 

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Depending on the type of anxiety disorder, an individual may experience various symptoms that occur at different times or durations. Some symptoms are of a physical nature, while others are of a cognitive nature.

There are multiple symptoms that people experience in their daily lives that are recognized as common signs of anxiety, including:

  • Feeling anxious, restless, or tense
  • An impending sense of danger
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing or hyperventilation
  • Trembling
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks or activities
  • Trouble in sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Feeling constant worry
  • Difficulty controlling triggers that escalate anxiety

 

Types of Anxiety Disorders

One of the principal factors to keep in mind when discussing anxiety disorders is the types that do exist. The American Psychological Association (APA) further classifies anxiety disorders in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of mental disorders.

The reason for breaking down anxiety disorders into different classifications is to provide mental health professionals with a precise measure for diagnosis. This serves as a reference for developing a well-structured treatment plan.

Here is a brief review of the categories of anxiety disorders according to the DSM’s 5th edition.

 

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety disorder mainly diagnosed in children. It presents as a prolonged and constant fear related to being separated from home or a loved one. It significantly impairs the sufferer’s daily functioning at home or school. While less common, this disorder can be diagnosed in teenagers and adults.

 

  • Selective Mutism

This category of selected mutism is also related to childhood anxiety disorder. As the name suggests, this condition is characterized by a child’s inability to talk in selected social settings, such as school. More than 90% of children with selective mutism have social anxiety or phobia. These children are only able to talk or communicate where they feel comfortable.

 

  • Specific Phobia

Specific phobia is an irrational or intense fear about any situation or thing that should typically pose little or no fear. An adult suffering from social phobia might realize that these fears are irrational. However, thinking about these situations can sometimes trigger anxiety symptoms.

 

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  • Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

Social anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety that causes extreme fear in social situations. People with this disorder feel extremely uncomfortable in social settings. This anxiety interferes with their social interactions as they have difficulty talking with people, meeting people, and avoiding social gatherings. They typically have a fear of being judged by others.

 

  • Panic Disorder

Panic disorders are surges of intense discomfort or fear that peak within minutes. An individual with a panic disorder lives in constant fear of having an anxiety attack. The person might have a panic attack when they begin to feel sudden and overwhelming fear for no apparent reason.

During a panic attack, individuals typically experience physical symptoms of anxiety, including:

  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Difficulty breathing

 

  • Agoraphobia

This form of anxiety disorder is a pre-assumed fear of being in a situation where it might be impossible to escape or help wouldn’t be available. Agoraphobia is associated with being in open places, traveling on public transport, visiting a shopping mall, or being away from home.

 

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is an excessive and persistent worry over multiple things. Individuals with GAD anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about family, health, or money. They have difficulty controlling their excessive worry.

 

  • Other Specific or Unspecified Anxiety Disorder

Lastly, this is a catch-all category for symptoms that create significantly impaired daily functioning but do not seem to meet any specific diagnostic criteria of the more understood types of anxiety disorders. DSM classifies such disorders under the category of other specific or unspecified anxiety disorders.

 

What Causes Anxiety Disorders?

When examining the etiological (causing) factors of anxiety disorders, a physician must take many considerations into account. One of the first determinations is whether the anxiety is due to any known or unrecognized medical condition.

According to the DSM, substance-induced anxiety disorders (anxiety due to over-the-counter medication, herbal medication, and medicine abuse) are also important to consider. Genetic factors can also influence anxiety disorders. Environmental factors, such as early childhood traumas, can also be a leading cause of anxiety disorders later in life.

 

2. Role of Medication in Treating Anxiety

Physical symptoms are a common part of most anxiety disorders. However, these symptoms can have a significant impact on an individual’s overall general health. For example, the physical stress of experiencing frequent anxiety attacks can cause an increase in other health conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, immune diseases, and migraines.

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Medications play a significant part in treating anxiety disorders because they can be used to manage physical symptoms of anxiety. In contrast to other treatment options for anxiety disorders, medications can provide quick relief.

This guide helps explain the important role that medication plays in treating anxiety disorders and how these essential drugs are used. 

 

Importance of Pharmacotherapy in Anxiety Disorders

Current psychological treatments for anxiety are not suitable for all patients. Some patients only respond to medication. A recent study suggests that drug treatment can substantially improve the quality of life in anxiety patients. New medications are being developed that provide longer-lasting relief and show promising results for treating anxiety.

Pharmacological treatments focus on reducing the intensity of physical symptoms caused by chronic anxiety. During the past 50 years, much research has been done to help understand the neurobiological traces of anxiety disorders. Based on the work done to understand the physiological basis of anxiety disorders, we cannot deny medication efficacy for treating them.

 

How do anxiety medications work?

Anxiety disorders are associated with specific chemical imbalances in the brain. These chemical imbalances involve neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). They are associated with an individual’s sense of well-being or with his/her ability to relax.

Anti-anxiety medications work by altering the level of these chemicals and eventually reducing the intensity of symptoms. For example, SSRIs increase the brain’s amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter chemical used by brain cells to communicate. The higher the serotonin levels, the better the brain communicates, which can help ease anxiety.

 

Signs that You Need an Anti-Anxiety Medication

Experiencing occasional anxiety is considered a common experience. But when this anxiety becomes your constant companion, it’s probably time for you to consult with your doctor about treating it with anxiety medication.

Here are six signs that might indicate you need medication to treat your anxiety:

  • If you tried other methods to lessen your anxiety, like meditation or deep breathing, but they are not working.
  • Your anxiety is significantly affecting your life and daily functioning.
  • You start feeling the physical impacts of your anxiety too often.
  • Your sleep is disrupted because of the vicious cycle: you can’t fall asleep because you are anxious, and the subsequent lack of sleep makes you more anxious during the day.
  • Your chronic anxiety is affecting your mood, and you get annoyed easily, even by small things.
  • You are experiencing passive escape or suicidal thoughts.

 

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Precautions for Taking Anxiety Medication

When beginning anxiety medication, you should remember the following guidelines to keep your treatment more structured. This will help you better understand your treatment and its effects.

These five guidelines will also help your clinician determine what medication is most suitable for you.

  1. To avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions, always tell your doctor if you are taking any other medications, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbal or dietary supplements.
  2. Learn how to take your medication, like whether you should take it on an empty stomach or with food, in the morning or evening, and how frequently.
  3. Find out how long it should take for the medication to start working and what you should expect when this happens.
  4. Ask how often you should see the doctor for a follow-up on your treatment.
  5. Ask your doctor these questions about the anti-anxiety medications:
  • How will medication help you?
  • What side effects might occur?
  • Should you avoid any food or beverages?
  • Are drug interactions with other prescriptions a possibility?

 

3. Types of Medication Used for Anxiety

Anxiety medications are considered adequate for treating many cases of anxiety. It might take several weeks for these medications to work, but ultimately, they are helpful when used with psychotherapy.

When discussing effective anxiety medications, they are divided into four classes. These different types of medications work to reduce anxiety in different ways, and each of them has its own side effects and benefits.

In this chapter, you will become acquainted with the types of anxiety medication. The selection of medication may vary from patient to patient according to their particular anxiety disorder. 

 

1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

According to studies, SSRIs are considered to be the first-line of drug treatment for anxiety. Although SSRIs are a type of antidepressant, doctors also prescribe them to treat anxiety.

Serotonin is a chemical that plays a vital role in mood regulation. It is one of the chemical messengers that transmit signals between brain cells (neurons). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are called selective because they mainly affect serotonin, not other neurotransmitters.

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SSRIs work by preventing serotonin from being absorbed by nerve cells in the brain. This makes more serotonin available to improve message transmission between neurons. Ultimately, the rise in serotonin level can improve symptoms and make the patient more responsive to other therapy treatments.

 

Types of SSRIs

The following SSRIs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.

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

All SSRIs work in the same way, but they differ in their potencies to block serotonin reuptake and how quickly the body metabolizes (eliminates) the drug. Sometimes a patient can’t tolerate one SSRI due to its associated side effects. Their doctor may prescribe another SSRI class drug instead.  

 

2. Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

This medication class is considered another option for patients suffering from anxiety or depression who are not responding to SSRIs. They are called SNRIs because they increase both serotonin and norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter in the brain.

Norepinephrine is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland and a neurotransmitter that transmits signals across nerve endings in the body. It plays a role in our sleep-wake cycle, helps with focus while performing tasks, and works with memory storage. They also play an important role in emotions. A deficiency of norepinephrine is associated with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

SNRI medications work by reducing the brain’s reabsorption of serotonin and norepinephrine. They cause changes in the brain’s chemistry and help improve communication between nerve cells in the brain to regulate moods and relieve depression.

 

Types of SNRIs

Following types of SNRIs are used for treating anxiety:

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)

SNRIs are considered as effective as SSRIs. However, they tend to have more side effects than SSRIs.

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3. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Tricyclic antidepressants, also known as cyclic antidepressants, are one of the earliest classes of antidepressants. TCAs may be considered a good option for some patients who don’t respond to other medications.

Cyclic antidepressants work to ease depression by affecting chemical messengers that function to communicate between brain cells. Like other antidepressants, cyclic antidepressants increase the level of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. This class of antidepressants also blocks the action of acetylcholine, another neurotransmitter, and as a result, can alleviate depression.

 

Types of Tricyclic Antidepressants

The TCAs most commonly prescribed are:

  • Elavil (amitriptyline)
  • Pamelor (nortriptyline)
  • Tofranil (imipramine)

TCAs, like SSRIs, are effective in treating anxiety disorders, but they can cause more side effects than SSRIs. According to a study on tricyclic antidepressants and serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs are preferable, especially when treating OCD and social phobia.

 

4. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. They are mainly prescribed for the short-term management of severe or treatment-resistant anxiety. They are fast-acting and very effective for panic attacks. When used occasionally, they can also have positive outcomes for patients suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and phobias.

Benzodiazepines are a type of prescription sedative that helps with anxiety or treating insomnia. They work to calm or sedate a person by raising the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA level in the brain. GABA is considered an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it inhibits specific brain signals and decreases the nervous system’s activity.

 

Types of Benzodiazepines

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

Benzodiazepines are not considered safe for long-term use because dependence can occur. Without a prescription, the use of these drugs is considered drug abuse. When taking Benzodiazepines, alcohol intake is strictly prohibited because the interaction between alcohol and Benzodiazepines could lead to severe and even life-threatening outcomes.

 

4. Best Medications for Treating Anxiety 

After examining the classes of medication prescribed for anxiety, it’s time to delve further into the information about the specific drugs that are members of each medication class.

 

10 Best Medicines for Anxiety

Here are the 10 medicines for anxiety: 

  • Citalopram (Celexa)

Citalopram is sold under the brand name of Celexa. It is an antidepressant that comes under the class of SSRIs. It can also be effective in treating anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder or social phobia.

While citalopram helps manage your anxiety, it may take a few weeks for the medicine to work and make your symptoms better. This medicine might have side effects, but these are generally mild. Adults and children over the age of 12 can take this medication. Citalopram can only be taken orally.

Citalopram may cause a condition that affects the heart rhythm (QT prolongation). While rare, QT prolongation can cause serious fast/irregular heartbeat and other symptoms, such as severe dizziness or fainting that require immediate medical attention.

The risk of QT prolongation may be increased if you have certain medical conditions or are taking other drugs that may cause QT prolongation. Before using citalopram, be sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the drugs you take and if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Certain heart problems like heart failure, slow heartbeat, or have recently had a heart attack
  • Family history of certain heart problems like QT prolongation or sudden cardiac death

 

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  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Escitalopram is another medicine under the class of SSRI. It is used to treat depression in adults and adolescents (12-17 years of age) and generalized anxiety disorder in adults.

This medication treats anxiety by working to restore the balance of serotonin in the brain. It improves energy levels, feeling of well-being, and decreases nervousness.  In a recent network meta-analysis, escitalopram was the most efficacious and well-tolerated SSRI among the new generation of antidepressants.

Escitalopram is available in both pill and liquid syrup form. The dosage of this medication depends on the condition. If you are taking the liquid form of escitalopram, be careful while measuring the dosage with a spoon.

 

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

Cymbalta is a class SNRI medicine. It is considered effective in treating major depressive disorders and generalized anxiety disorders in adults and children that are at least seven years old.

Duloxetine works on certain chemicals in the brain like serotonin and norepinephrine that may be unbalanced in patients with depression and anxiety. In 2018, it was the 36th most prescribed medication in the United States with 21 million prescriptions. It is an FDA-approved medication.

Antidepressants like Duloxetine may cause hyponatremia, a condition where the amount of sodium in the blood drops extremely. This can cause symptoms, such as drowsiness, confusion, muscle twitching, or convulsions. Older adults may be particularly susceptible to this side effect. There may also be an increased risk in people with liver cirrhosis and those who are dehydrated or taking diuretic medicines. You should consult your doctor if you develop any of these symptoms while taking Duloxetine so that your blood sodium level can be checked if necessary.

 

  • Elavil (amitriptyline)

Elavil is medicine under the class of Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs). They are usually prescribed to patients over 18 years of age. It is on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of essential medications.

Typically used to treat mood problems, Elavil improves mood, relieves anxiety, and increases energy levels. It can take up to 4 weeks to provide its full effect. Before taking amitriptyline, tell your doctor if you are allergic to it or other tricyclic antidepressants, such as nortriptyline, or if you have any other allergies. This medicine may contain inactive ingredients that can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your doctor for more details.

 

  • Pamelor (nortriptyline)

Pamelor also belongs to the TCA class. It is also available as a generic drug that costs less than the brand name version. This medication is used in the treatment of anxiety, ADHD, depression, and smoking cessation. It is used for young people over the age of 18 and is not recommended for children.

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Pamelor works like other tricyclic antidepressants. It is taken orally in capsule form. For elderly patients and adolescents, a lower than the typical dosage of Pamelor is advised. An overdose, whether accidental or intentional, of nortriptyline, is considered a medical emergency that frequently results in death.

Symptoms of overdose include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Hallucination
  • Widened pupils
  • Drowsiness
  • Agitation
  • Fever
  • Low body temperature
  • Stiff muscles
  • Vomiting

 

  • Ativan (lorazepam)

Lorazepam is a drug under the class of Benzodiazepines. It is used to treat anxiety and associated sleep problems. Additional uses include being used for sedation during surgery or to interface with memory formation. This medication can be given orally or as an injection into a muscle or vein. When given by injection, the onset of its effects occurs within one to thirty minutes and may last up to a day.

Ativan can be taken by adults and children aged 13 and older. It can also be taken as pre-medication for children of 5 years or older. Drug interaction of lorazepam with concomitant drugs may produce marked sedation, excessive salivation, hypotension, and respiratory arrest.

 

  • Klonopin (clonazepam)

Klonopin is another drug from the class of Benzodiazepines. It works by increasing GABA activity in the brain as if the person does not have enough level of GABA. Low GABA levels can cause the body to be in an excited state that might cause panic attacks or seizures. 

Clonazepam can be used in patients over 18 years of age. Since Klonopin produces effects in the central nervous system (CNS), patients receiving this drug should be warned against engaging in hazardous occupations requiring mental alertness, such as operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle. They should also be warned about the concomitant use of alcohol or other CNS-depressant drugs while taking Klonopin.

 

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)

Fluoxetine is a medication from the SSRI class. Besides being used to treat depression and OCD, it is also suitable for panic disorder. Fluoxetine is associated with a significant increase in congenital heart defects in the newborn if taken during pregnancy. It has been recommended that fluoxetine therapy may be continued during breastfeeding if other antidepressants were ineffective.

Prozac is approved for use in adults and children over the age of seven. It is also on the WHO’s list of most essential medicines. In 2018, it was 23rd on the list of most commonly prescribed drugs.

 

  • Valium (diazepam)

Valium (diazepam) comes under the class of benzodiazepines. This medication is used to treat various conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Restless legs syndrome

There are several ways to administer valium. It can be taken orally, injected in a vein, or via a nasal spray. It is recommended for patients over the age of 18 years. Valium, along with other Benzodiazepines, is classified as a controlled substance. This means it can be taken only under supervision or prescription from the doctor as valium can cause emotional and physical dependence.

You should not decrease your dosage or stop using Valium on your own. Your doctor will discuss the possible strategies for reducing its possible side effects.

 

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  • Alprazolam

Alprazolam is also a benzodiazepine. It is used to treat anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder and anxiety caused by depression. It is commonly used in the short-term management of anxiety. The use of alprazolam in nursing mothers can result in weight loss of their child and lethargy.

Alprazolam enhances the effects of GABA, leading to inhibitions of neurons in the brain. This inhibition of neurons results in reduced anxiety, muscle relaxation, and antidepressant activity. The activity of alprazolam in the central nervous system depends on its dose.

Note: All these medications should only be taken under the guidance of a doctor/ physician.

 

5. Possible Side Effects of Anxiety Medications 

Anti-anxiety medications have a significant potential for causing side effects in patients. Sometimes these side effects can be tolerable. But when they do not subside, you must see your doctor. Despite the side effects, it’s essential to continue taking your medication and not stop abruptly without a doctor’s advice.

Since anxiety medication works to relieve physical symptoms, most of them include tranquilizers and sedatives. These medications mainly affect the central nervous system by suppressing its overactivity and ultimately relaxing an individual. Because of this reason, it is easy for patients to become dependent on them.

In this part of the guide, we will explore the side effects commonly associated with anxiety medication according to each of the four classes.

 

1. Side Effects of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Generally, SSRIs are considered more tolerable than other classes of medication used in treating anxiety. Most people may experience mild side effects, as it takes several weeks until the medication starts showing its positive effects on your health.

Below are several common side effects of SSRIs that typically improve over time:

  • Feeling agitated or shaky
  • Feeling unwell
  • Indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Sleep issues, such as insomnia or drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Sexual dysfunction

Aside from these common side effects, SSRIs are also linked with these rare or less common side effects:

  • Bruising or bleeding easily, including vomiting blood
  • Confusion
  • Movement problems like stiffness or shaking.
  • Hallucinations, such as seeing or hearing things not present in real life
  • Serotonin syndrome, which is an uncommon but potentially severe side effect. It occurs when you take an SSRI in combination with another medication, and they raise your level of serotonin to an abnormal value.

It can cause:

    • Muscle twitching
    • Agitation
    • Sweating and shivering
    • Diarrhea 

 

2. Side Effects of Selective-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs can also cause side effects, but they are generally mild and go away after the first few weeks. If a patient can’t tolerate one SNRI, the doctor might switch to another SNRI medication for anxiety.

Here are some common side effects of SNRIs:

  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Headache and excessive sweating

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Less common side effects may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • High blood pressure
  • Worsen liver problems
  • A chance of serotonin syndrome 

 

3. Side Effects of Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Tricyclic antidepressants have some side effects, but they also have withdrawal symptoms. If tricyclic antidepressants are discontinued abruptly, they can cause nausea, headache, dizziness, and restlessness. These withdrawal symptoms may appear after a few doses are missed. Therefore, doctors will reduce the dose slowly before discontinuing the treatment.

Common side effects of TCAs include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Skin rashes
  • Increased heart rate

During treatment, TCAs can be troublesome for patients with the following conditions: 

  • With urinary retention as TCAs might worsen your symptoms and might be a cause of sexual dysfunction
  • Narrow-angle glaucoma
  • Abnormal heart rate

 

4. Side Effects of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are also known as tranquilizers due to their calming effects on anxiety. Therefore, there is a chance for various side effects. One of the significant side effects of benzodiazepines is the risk of dependency. Long-term use of benzodiazepines can make a person dependent on them, which is why they are typically used for short-term treatment purposes.

Some of the most common side effects of benzodiazepines include:

  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Muscle weakness
  • Constipation
  • Memory problems

Less common side effects of benzodiazepines include:

  • Increased saliva production
  • Rashes
  • Tremors (shaking)
  • Incontinence (lack of bladder control)
  • Visual problems, such as double vision
  • Blood disorders
  • Jaundice
  • Feeling dulled and slow

 

6. Overcoming the Side Effects of Anxiety Medications 

After reading through the side effects of anxiety medications, you might have concerns over their possible side effects. But do not forget to look at their positives as they are typically one of the most effective treatments for anxiety. The good news is that there are tips that you can follow to overcome your side effects.

The first step you should take after experiencing any side effects is to consult your doctor. These medications rarely cause serious side effects. The common side effects usually settle down with time. All you need is patience and your doctor’s advice.

Consider these valuable tips for common side effects of anxiety medications.

 

1. Nausea

Nausea is the most common side effect of anxiety medications. It usually begins just after you start your medication and vanishes after your body gets adjusted to the medication. If you feel nauseous, give these five tips a try:

  1. Take your medicine with food if your doctor has not directed you to take it any other way.
  2. Try to take smaller and more frequent meals.
  3. Try to drink plenty of water and juices.
  4. Avoid eating fried or oily foods often.
  5. Avoid walking right after eating. Instead, wait 20-30 minutes before taking a walk.

 

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2. Insomnia

Some anxiety medications other than benzodiazepines (which usually cause drowsiness) can make it difficult for you to sleep. Lack of sleep or insomnia is considered a common side effect, but it can harm your health. If you experience insomnia, consult with your doctor. He or she may recommend that you use an approved sedating medication at bedtime. Below are five tips that can help you overcome insomnia:

  1. If your doctor agrees, take your anti-anxiety medication in the morning.
  2. Avoid caffeinated drinks, especially late in the day.
  3. Try to get regular physical activity but complete it several hours before going to your bed.
  4. Do not eat or drink before going to bed.
  5. Avoid activities like using your phone in bed.

 

3. Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is another common side effect of anxiety medication. You might have a dry mouth frequently all day, even after drinking water several times. The continuous and bothersome dry mouth needs to be discussed with a doctor. These five tips can help you manage dry mouth:

  1. Sip water continuously or suck on ice chips.
  2. Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy.
  3. Avoid caffeinated drinks, tobacco, and alcohol because they can make your mouth drier.
  4. Breathe through your nose, not from your mouth.
  5. You can also ask your doctor about over-the-counter medication for dry mouth.

 

4. Dizziness

Dizziness is a side effect related to tricyclic antidepressants more than other medications. This medication can cause low blood pressure that results in dizziness. Feeling dizzy most of the time can make you feel weak or unsteady. Consider these six strategies to overcome dizziness:

  1. Rise slowly from sitting to standing position.
  2. Avoid driving or operating machinery.
  3. Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol.
  4. Drink plenty of water.
  5. Use handrails or sturdy items for support.
  6. Consult your physician as soon as possible.

 

5. Fatigue and Drowsiness

Feeling exhausted and tired might be a side effect associated primarily with benzodiazepine medications. You might feel lethargic and less energized.

Here are six things you can do to reduce the intensity of this side effect:

  1. Take a brief nap during the day.
  2. Try a physical activity like a walk in the evening.
  3. Avoid driving or operating machinery until the drowsiness subsides.
  4. Take your anxiety medication before bedtime if your doctor approves.
  5. Eat a balanced diet.
  6. Consult your physician as soon as possible.

 

6. Constipation

Constipation is mainly associated with Tricyclic antidepressants because they affect the digestive tract’s normal functioning and other organ systems. Other classes of anxiety medication may also cause constipation.

Here are five valuable tips that might help you overcome constipation:

  1. Drink a lot of water.
  2. Eat fresh fiber food such as fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and bran.
  3. Get regular exercise.
  4. Take a fiber supplement.
  5. Take your advice on stool softeners from a doctor if other measures don’t work. 

 

7. Additional Treatments for Anxiety 

Most people who seek treatment for anxiety experience significant improvement in their symptoms. New treatments for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders are being tested all the time. Besides anxiety medication, several other approaches are also available.

It is essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment option for you. In this chapter, we present alternative options for treating anxiety other than medication.

 

1. Psychological Therapies

In contrast to anxiety medication, psychological therapies are a long-term treatment approach for anxiety. The goal is to equip a patient with insight into his/her problems and how to overcome them through solutions that will be useful for them even after their treatment ends.

Determining which therapies will work for you depends on the nature and type of your anxiety. Your clinician will decide if therapy or medication or both will be better for you. In most cases, a combined approach is used where medicine and therapy are used simultaneously. Often, a therapist might have to use a combination of therapies to get the best results.

Let’s examine several therapies that are used mainly for anxiety.

 

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a well-established and highly effective treatment for anxiety. It focuses on understanding and changing thinking and behavior patterns. Benefits are usually seen in 12 to 16 weeks, depending on the individual.

The basic premise of CBT is that our thoughts, not the external environment affects how we think. One of the plus points of this treatment is that patients learn skills like challenging their thoughts during therapy sessions, and they must practice them regularly to see improvement. The patient is actively involved in his/her recovery and learns skills that are useful throughout life.

 

  • Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a process for reducing fear and anxiety responses in patients. In therapy, a person is gradually exposed to a fearful situation or object to get less sensitive to it over time. This treatment can be considered suitable for anxiety disorders like social phobia or specific phobias. Exposure therapy is sometimes used with the combination of other treatments like CBT and medication.

 

  • Psychodynamic Therapy

This type of therapy helps find greater meaning in life, improves self-awareness, and explores the importance of the past on present behavior and emotions. It is an approach that works mainly on conflicts that can be a cause of your anxiety. These conflicts may be traced back to your childhood.

Psychodynamic therapy works on finding the root cause for anxiety from your past life, which then helps the therapist to work on the targeted problem and to resolve conflicts from the past life.

 

  • Relaxation Techniques

Techniques, such as mindfulness, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation can help your anxiety when practiced daily. These techniques reduce the damaging effects of anxiety by activating your body’s natural relaxation response, a state of deep rest.  It slows your breathing and heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and brings your body and mind back to balance.

 

2. Deep Brain Stimulation

This treatment option is primarily for severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) who has not responded to existing conventional therapies. In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a cranial electrotherapy stimulator to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

A neurosurgeon surgically implants electrodes into a specific region of the brain and connects them to a pulse generator implanted just below the collarbone. The battery-powered pulse generator, also called an implantable neurotransmitter, contains a microchip that regulates the stimulation.

 

3. Natural Remedies

Natural remedies or daily life practices might not be a cure for your anxiety. However, they can complement your treatment.

The following five practices can help you to adopt a balanced and healthy lifestyle that could help you manage your anxiety: 

  1. Stay active with regular exercise because it is vital for your physical and mental health.
  2. Stop smoking as smokers usually reach for a cigarette as a quick fix, which may worsen their anxiety.
  3. Also, say no to alcohol because it’s a natural sedative. Alcohol can calm you for a moment, but once the buzz is over, anxiety returns.
  4. If you have chronic anxiety, then caffeine is not your friend. For some people, eliminating caffeine could significantly improve their anxiety symptoms.
  5. Try aromatherapy, which uses fragrant essential oils to promote health and well-being.

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Final Words

Anxiety medications are not magic pills that can make your anxiety suddenly go away. Medication takes time to work, depending on the severity of symptoms and other individual factors. Anxiety medication should be taken as prescribed by your clinician and when taken under proper guidance, they really work to treat anxiety.

Remember medication is not the only cure. Different treatment approaches can be helpful depending on an individual’s particular anxiety disorder. Schedule your appointment today!

 

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