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Anxiety is an extremely common and normal human emotion. However, anxiety that interferes with daily life may be a sign of an underlying anxiety disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders affect millions of people in the United States, and many more around the world. While therapy and lifestyle changes can help manage anxiety, many individuals find anti-anxiety medication to be helpful in treating anxiety symptoms. 

Several different types of medications can help to treat anxiety. These medications work by targeting neurotransmitters, chemical signals in the brain that can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Read on to learn more about the different types of anti-anxiety medication. The best way to find the right medication is to talk to a mental health professional.

At Geode, we have providers who specialize in treating anxiety disorders and can help you develop a personalized treatment plan.  Keep reading to learn more about anxiety treatment options, or get in touch with a provider near you today!

What are the Types of Anti-Anxiety Medication?

Several types of medications can be used to treat anxiety. These medications work in different ways, and they are effective for different conditions and symptoms. Your mental health provider will assess your symptoms and recommend the best medication for your situation.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs for short, are a type of antidepressant medication commonly prescribed to individuals struggling with depression or anxiety. While SSRIs are commonly known as antidepressants, they are also effective in treating anxiety. As their name suggests, SSRIs work by selectively blocking the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, which ultimately leads to an increase in levels of this crucial neurotransmitter and other downstream effects. Some of the most common SSRIs include escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), and sertraline (Zoloft). SSRIs may take a few weeks to reach their maximum effect, but they are excellent long-term medications for the treatment of anxiety disorders. 

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, SNRIs for short, are another type of medication that can be effective in treating anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. SNRIs work by increasing the levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Similarly to SSRIs, SNRIs can take several weeks to reach their maximum treatment effect. Common SNRIs include duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor).

Buspirone

Buspirone (Buspar) is a member of the azapirone medication class and is commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders. Buspirone works by interacting with serotonin and other receptors in the brain. It may take a few weeks after starting buspirone for individuals to notice a reduction in anxiety. Buspirone also lasts for only a short time in the body, and therefore must be taken two to three times a day. Since buspirone works differently from SSRIs and SNRIs, it can be a helpful alternative if individuals experience side effects from these other medications. 

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative that can be used to treat anxiety disorders and sleep disorders. Common benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and diazepam (Valium). These medications work by enhancing the effect of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Benzodiazepines can quickly reduce feelings of anxiety and can be quite effective in providing short-term relief. However, it is important to use these medications carefully and only as prescribed. Benzodiazepines can be highly addictive and come with serious side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion. While benzodiazepines have a time and place in the treatment of certain anxiety conditions, it is important to work closely with a healthcare provider to find the right medication, dosage, and duration of treatment, and identify situations where using the medication is appropriate. 

What Are The Side Effects of Anti-Anxiety Medication?

Anti-anxiety medications are designed to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders, but like any medication, they can come with potential side effects. Common side effects of anti-anxiety medication can include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, or gastrointestinal issues such as nausea or diarrhea. While these side effects can be bothersome, they typically subside after the first few weeks of use. Less common but more serious side effects such as allergic reactions, difficulty breathing, or heart palpitations should be reported to a doctor immediately.

Side effects vary by medication, and not everyone will experience side effects while taking anti-anxiety medication. Your Geode provider will help you manage side effects and will work with you to find a medication that provides the best outcome.

Finding the Right Anti-Anxiety Medication

Finding the right anti-anxiety medication can take time and patience. It is important to work with a healthcare provider who has experience treating anxiety disorders and who can help you find the right medication for you.

Your Geode psychiatrist may start by prescribing a low dose of medication and then gradually increasing the dose until you find relief. They may also switch you to a different medication if you experience side effects or if the medication is not effective.

It is important to be patient and to communicate with your Geode provider about any concerns or side effects you may be experiencing. They will work with you to find a medication that is well-tolerated and effective for you.

How Do I Know If I Need Anti-Anxiety Medicine?

Anxiety is a normal human emotion, but when it begins to interfere with daily life, it may be time to consider anti-anxiety medication. Medication is one of many tools your mental health provider may recommend to manage symptoms of anxiety. Talk therapy, psychodynamic therapy treatment, self-care, and lifestyle changes – such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and regular exercise – can also help you feel better.

If you find yourself frequently feeling worried, nervous, or panicked, or experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety like a racing heart or sweating, the first step is to talk with a mental health professional. Your Geode provider can evaluate your symptoms and create a personalized treatment plan that works for you. Find a Geode provider near you today and learn how we can help you manage your anxiety and improve your quality of life.