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Medications Used to Treat Anxiety

As previously stated, medications are one option available for treating anxiety. Psychiatrists or other physicians can prescribe medications for anxiety disorders. These doctors often work closely with psychologists, social workers, or counselors who provide psychotherapy. Although medications won't cure an anxiety disorder, they can keep the symptoms under control and enable you to lead a normal, fulfilling life.
The major classes of medications used for anxiety include:
A number of medications that were originally approved for treating depression have been found to be effective for anxiety disorders. If your doctor prescribes an antidepressant for anxiety, you will need to take it for several weeks before your symptoms start to fade. It's important not to get discouraged and stop taking these medications before they've had a chance to work. Some of these types of medications include:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
Some of the newest antidepressants are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These medications act on one of the brain's chemical messengers called serotonin.
SSRIs tend to have fewer side effects than older antidepressants. People do sometimes report feeling slightly nauseated or jittery when they first start taking SSRIs, but that usually disappears with time. Some people also experience sexual dysfunction when taking some of these medications.
An adjustment in dosage or a switch to another SSRI will usually correct bothersome problems. It is important to discuss side effects with your doctor so that he or she will know when there is a need for a change in your medication.
Fluoxetine (Prozac®), sertraline (Zoloft®), fluvoxamine (Luvox®), paroxetine (Paxil®, Paxil® CR, Pexeva™), and citalopram (Celexa®) are among the SSRIs commonly prescribed for panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social phobia. SSRIs are often used to treat people who have panic disorder in combination with OCD, social phobia, or depression.
Venlafaxine (Effexor®, Effexor® XR), a drug closely related to the SSRIs, is useful for treating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Other newer antidepressants are currently being studied as potential anxiety treatments, although one, bupropion (Wellbutrin®), does not appear to be effective for these conditions.
SSRI medications are started at a low dose and gradually increased until they reach a therapeutic level.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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