Anxiety Medication: The Complete Guide
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Anxiety Medication: The Complete Guide




According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 18.1 percent of the U.S. population struggles with an anxiety disorder. However, among this population, only 36.9 percent receive treatment for their condition.

Medication is one of the most effective options to treat anxiety disorders. A lot of people are hesitant about taking these drugs, though, because they have concerns about efficacy and side effects.

For those who fall into this category, some of the most common questions and concerns regarding anxiety medication are addressed below.




What Medications Are Prescribed for Anxiety or Panic?


Some of the medications prescribed to treat panic and anxiety include:

  • Benzodiazepines: These medications reduce anxiety by depressing the central nervous system (CNS)
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs increase the availability of serotonin in the brain
  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs increase the availability of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain



Some people are surprised to learn that SSRIs and SNRIs, which are also prescribed for treating depression, can be recommended for anxiety. They can be very effective, though, according to the National Health Service, likely because of serotonin’s positive effect on one’s mood, emotional regulation, and sense of calmness.




Who Should Take Medication for Anxiety?


In some cases, an individual may be hesitant about taking medication prescribed for anxiety. They may even wonder whether or not their symptoms are “severe” enough to warrant medication.


The truth is that lots of people can benefit from taking medications to relieve anxiety. The following are some examples of anxiety disorders that can be treated and managed with medication:

  • Performance Anxiety
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)



Because everyone’s specific symptoms, as well as their intensity and frequency, are unique, it’s not always clear whether or not medication will be beneficial. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before making a decision one way or the other.



Are Drugs like Klonopin, Xanax, and Other Benzodiazepines Good for Anxiety?


Benzodiazepines work by depressing the central nervous system and reducing anxiety symptoms. These medications are among the most common treatment options for anxiety disorders because they’re quite effective.


It’s important to note, though, that benzodiazepines are typically recommended for short-term use only. The American Academy of Family Physicians explains that these drugs are known for being habit-forming and can create both physical and mental dependencies.




What Does It Feel Like to Be on Anti-Anxiety Medication?


Everyone’s experience with anti-anxiety drugs is unique because every person’s anxiety symptoms are unique. That being said, the following are some frequently reported effects associated with anxiety medication:

  • Increased mental and physical relaxation
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Fatigue or tiredness


Most people experience these changes even when they’re taking low doses of anti-anxiety medication.


In the case of benzodiazepines, these effects take place very quickly, within about 30 minutes. For those who are relying on other anti-anxiety medications, such as SSRIs or SNRIs, it takes around 4-6 weeks to see results.



Can Anxiety Be Cured Without Medication?


Not everyone needs to take medication to treat their anxiety disorder. While medication can be very helpful, there are other effective treatment options to consider as well, such as therapy.


Working with a qualified therapist can make a big difference for those who struggle with anxiety. In fact, it’s recommended regardless of whether or not the person is taking medication.


According to the American Psychological Association, therapy is generally considered to be more effective than medications. Researchers have also found that adding medications often does not provide significant improvements compared to therapy alone.



What Kinds of Medications Are Best for Panic Attacks?


Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear that occur when no danger is present. They trigger intense physical reactions, such as hyperventilation, a racing heart rate, and chest pain, and some people even confuse panic attacks with heart attacks.


Certain anti-anxiety medications can help to minimize the effects of panic attacks, including benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines can provide significant, rapid relief when one is in the middle of a panic attack.


SSRIs and SNRIs can help to reduce one’s likelihood of having a panic attack in the future, too.



Can Corticosteroids Cause Panic Attacks?


Corticosteroids (such as Cortisone, Dexamethasone, and Prednisone) can cause panic attacks, anxiety symptoms, and mood swings in some individuals.


Physicians aren’t sure exactly why this is the case. However, they suspect it has to do with the impact that corticosteroids have on some of the body’s hormones.




What Antibiotics Cause Anxiety?


Some of the antibiotics most strongly linked to increases in depression and anxiety are in the fluoroquinolone family. Examples include Levofloxacin (Levaquin), Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), Ciprofloxacin ER, and Moxifloxacin (Avelox).


According to this study, published by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, penicillin antibiotics can also contribute to anxiety and depression.




Can Melatonin Cause Anxiety?


Some people experience mild anxiety, irritability, and short-lasting feelings of depression when they take melatonin supplements. These side effects are not very common, though.



Can I Take Other Medications Along With My Anxiety Medications?


The question of whether it is safe to take other medications alongside anxiety medication is a crucial one, as it pertains to individual health and well-being. The answer largely depends on the specific anxiety medication and the other drugs in question. It is imperative to consult with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a doctor or pharmacist, who can provide personalized guidance based on your unique medical history, the type of anxiety medication you’re taking, and the potential interactions with other medications.



Some drug combinations can lead to harmful interactions or diminish the effectiveness of either medication. In contrast, others may be safely co-administered. It’s vital to disclose all your current medications and medical conditions to your healthcare provider to make an informed decision and ensure your safety.


Never self-prescribe or make assumptions about drug interactions, as the consequences can be serious. Trust the expertise of medical professionals to guide you in managing your medications effectively and safely.



Anxiety Medication Online Minneapolis

What Side Effects Should I Look Out for with Anxiety Medications?


As with other medications, there are certain side effects that patients ought to be aware of before they start taking anti-anxiety medications.


There are some similarities in the side effects associated with SSRIs and SNRIs compared to benzodiazepines. However, there are some distinct differences, too.

SSRI/SNRI Side Effects

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Mood swings
  • Weight changes
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive issues
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased perspiration

Benzodiazepine Side Effects

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty with balance/coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Confusion
  • Digestive issues
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision




Can Anxiety Medications Make My Anxiety Worse?


In some cases, anti-anxiety medications can make anxiety symptoms worse. This is especially true for those who struggle with other mental health conditions.


For example, according to the Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies, people with schizophrenia often notice increases in anxiety when they take antidepressants that are often prescribed for anxiety management (such as SSRIs and SNRIs). These medications can exacerbate symptoms of schizophrenia, which in turn makes anxiety worse.

Anxiety Medication Withdrawal

Some people may also struggle with physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when they rely too heavily on anti-anxiety medications. This is a relatively common side effect that can lead to worsened anxiety when one stops taking a certain drug or goes too long without taking it.


In addition to increases in anxiety, the following are some other common withdrawal symptoms associated with anti-anxiety medications:

  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Racing heart rate
  • Profuse sweating
  • Seizures


Most of these symptoms are associated with benzodiazepines. SSRIs and SNRIs are less likely to cause withdrawal symptoms, but they can occur if the medication is discontinued too quickly. Examples of withdrawal symptoms include worsened anxiety, depression, fatigue, mood swings, insomnia, and flu-like symptoms.




Who Prescribes Anxiety Medication?


For those who are seeking treatment for anxiety and are interested in taking medication, it’s important to consult a doctor or another licensed healthcare professional.


The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that only certain individuals can prescribe anxiety medication. This list includes psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and psychiatric pharmacists.


At ALL IN, Lydia is the Nurse Practitioner that prescribes anxiety medication.



When Do I Know It Is Time to Stop Taking My Anxiety Medication?


In general, most professionals recommend staying on anxiety medication until one has been symptom-free (or as close to symptom-free as is reasonable) for at least 1-2 years.


In some cases, though, a patient might need to stop taking an anxiety medication before this time. If they are experiencing severe side effects that are interfering with their quality of life, or if they notice that their symptoms are getting worse, they should consult a doctor about stopping and/or switching medications.





American Academy of Family Physicians

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

American Psychological Association. How Do I Choose Between Medication and Therapy?

Cummings, J. Why Do Anti Anxiety Medications Sometimes Increase Anxiety?

Longo, L. P., & Johnson, B. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines-side effects, abuse risk and alternatives. American family physician61(7), 2121.

Lurie, I., Yang, Y. X., Haynes, K., Mamtani, R., & Boursi, B. (2015). Antibiotic exposure and the risk for depression, anxiety, or psychosis: a nested case-control study. The Journal of clinical psychiatry76(11), 0-0.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Types of Mental Health Professionals.

National Health Service. (October 2, 2018). Overview – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)


Written by Dr. Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, LMFT

Medically Reviewed by Lydia Sherman, CNP

First Published: 8/16/2021

Last Updated: 10/20/2023


Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.




Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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