Medications Used to Treat Anxiety Disorders

If you are looking for the right medication to treat anxiety disorders, you’ll be happy to know that the majority of drugs are safe and highly effective. All that is needed is time and patience to find the medication that works for you.

Sadly, there is no cure for anxiety disorders, but if you take the medication as prescribed by your doctor, you will manage the symptoms and lead a healthy life. The following are the types of medication used to manage anxiety disorders:

  • Anti-depressants
  • Buspirone
  • Beta-blockers
  • Benzodiazepines

These are the main categories, and therefore, there are subgroups of drugs that work differently in treating anxiety disorders. It’s important to note that each drug has its risks, advantages and side effects. Since we’re all wired differently, you’ll most likely try several medications before you find the one that works for you.

Let’s take a look at each category in detail.


These are sedatives that work by relaxing the body muscles and ultimately relaxing your mind. Benzodiazepines improve the effects of the chemicals that transmit messages in the brain cells. They treat different types of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorders and panic disorders.

The commonly prescribed Benzodiazepines are:

  • Ativan
  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Klonopin


  • Benzodiazepines work fast and provide a quick relief within one hour


  • If taken for more than a month, the patient can build up tolerance towards the drug and will require a higher dosage to feel better.
  • Benzodiazepines are addictive and can cause harsh withdrawal symptoms if the patient abruptly stops taking them.
  • Side effects include dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, blurred vision and more.


Buspirone is a newer anti-anxiety drug used to treat chronic and short-term anxiety disorders. Buspirone (brand name Buspar), increases serotonin and lowers dopamine in the brain.

It’s a slow-acting drug and works best for older patients or people with a history of drug abuse.


  • Low risk of dependence.
  • Minimal withdrawal effects
  • Buspirone does not impair memory or negatively affect body coordination.


  • Not as effective as other anxiety disorder drugs.
  • Only works for generalized anxiety disorder.


Beta-blockers are mainly used to treat heart conditions but also relieve panic disorders, performance anxieties and social phobia. They block the stress hormone, norepinephrine and control symptoms of anxiety such as sweating, shaky hands, fast heartbeat and a trembling voice.


  • They act relatively fast.
  • Minimal or no side effects


  • Can cause loss of sleep


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), Tricyclics are the common types of anti-depressants. They affect the neurotransmitters in the brain and can take up to six weeks to produce effects.

  • Common SSRIs include Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa and Paxil and they treat generalized anxiety disorders, PTSD, social anxiety and panic disorders.
  • MAOIs such as Nardil, Emsam, Parnate, and Marplan treat social phobia and panic disorders.
  • Anafranil and Tofranil are tricyclics that treat most anxiety disorders except OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Making a Decision

If you have an anxiety disorder, there are many treatment choices that you and your doctor should consider to find the treatment that is best for you.

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