It’s normal to be anxious sometimes, whether it be from speaking in front of a crowd, taking an airplane flight or going on a job interview, all can trigger anxiety. But for a lot of people, anxiety isn’t just a once-in-a-while case of the jitters. It’s a mental health problem that affects how they function.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults in the U.S., or more than 18 percent of the population, have anxiety disorders every year. Saurabh Jauhari, MD, a psychiatrist at Banner Health Center in Sun City West, AZ, said that for many people, fear of anxiety is more troublesome than actual anxiety. For example, your apprehension about a job interview can be worse than the anxiety you experience during the interview.
Fortunately, anxiety responds well to treatment. Your doctor may recommend a prescription medication for your anxiety—here’s what to know about six of the most commonly prescribed types.
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
SSRIs and SNRIs are often the first-line treatment for anxiety. Common SSRI brands are Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, and Zoloft, and common SNRI brands are Pristiq, Cymbalta, and Effexor XR.
- Pros: They are effective for a lot of people and they have a solid safety profile.
- Cons: They can take four to six weeks to build up in your system. They could cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhea and could lead to low sodium levels. For a small number of people, they cause sexual side effects.
Vistaril is an antihistamine that can treat itching from allergies as well as anxiety.
- Pro: You can take Vistaril as needed, for short-term anxiety relief such as before surgery.
- Cons: It can cause dry mouth, dizziness, blurred vision or constipation.
Buspar increases your levels of the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
- Pros: Along with relieving anxiety it can improve your sense of well-being and help you think more clearly and worry less.
- Cons: It can lead to dizziness and drowsiness with nausea.
Abilify and Seroquel
Abilify and Seroquel are antipsychotic drugs that can treat a range of mental health and mood disorders by helping to balance certain brain chemicals.
- Pros: They work quickly, so you can get relief within a few days.
- Cons: They can make you drowsy, though that can be a benefit if you’re having trouble sleeping. They can cause spasms, dry mouth and involuntary body movements.
Benzodiazepines are tranquilizers—common types are Valium and Xanax.
- Pro: They can give you immediate relief.
- Cons: You can only use them short-term since you can become dependent on them and build up resistance to them.
The beta blocker Propranolol is approved for social anxiety.
- Pros: You can take it to reduce anxiety before stage performances or public speaking. It doesn’t make you sleepy.
- Cons: It can cause low blood pressure or dizziness.
With all these options, how can you choose?
Your doctor can recommend the best medication to help control your anxiety. There are different types of anxiety disorders, so different medications may be better choices for your type. Your doctor will also consider your other health conditions and medications, and whether you have a family history of responding better to a certain medication. Since you might be taking medication long-term, you may want to factor in affordability.
What other treatments can help manage anxiety?
Medications for anxiety are safe and effective and are good options for many people. But some people want to avoid medication, and some want to combine medication with other treatments. You can try:
- Psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a first-line treatment for anxiety, and phobias can respond to biofeedback and exposure therapy.
- Stress management techniques. You can learn breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation to reduce anxiety.
- Lifestyle modifications. Getting enough quality sleep, exercising, and avoiding alcohol, illicit drugs and excessive caffeine can help reduce anxiety.
- Support groups. Connecting with people who share your experiences can be valuable.
The bottom line
“Anxiety can be debilitating but it is treatable,” Dr. Jauhari said. With the right therapies, lifestyle changes, and medication, you can control your anxiety and you’ll be able to function well, be productive and live your life.
For a referral to a Banner Health mental health professional who can help treat your anxiety, visit bannerhealth.com.
To learn more about anxiety and mental health issues, check out:
- Could I Benefit from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy?
- Do I Have Anxiety, Depression, or Both? Here’s How to Tell
- Myths About Bipolar Disorder