Should You Take Medication for Anxiety?

April 9, 2013

Should You Take Medication for Anxiety?

by Robert Davies

Whilst we all experience a touch of anxiousness or stress from time to time, for sufferers of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, anxiety can be crippling. Anxiety can lead to sleep deprivation, fear of social engagement, incapacity at work or physical illness. Psychotherapy provided by a clinical psychologist or psychotherapist is commonly used to treat anxiety yet. in severe cases the medication may be necessary to alleviate anxiety symptoms.

Certain medications may be useful as a way to contain and improve symptoms of anxiety. Keep in mind that medication does not cure anxiety and that it is used primarily for symptomatic treatment, i.e. to alleviate anxiety symptoms. Ideally medication should be used under the supervision of a psychiatrist or a doctor and in conjunction with counselling.

Listed below are the types of medication that are normally used to treat severe anxiety or mild depression:


In addition to supporting sufferers of depression, anti-depressant medication was also found to be effective for the treatment of anxiety. This category of medication includes tricyclic antidepressants, MAOIs and SSRIs, which are the most popular anti-depressant commonly used in the treatment of anxiety.

Anti-depressants typically take more than 4 weeks to start alleviating the symptoms of anxiety and they must be taken every day. They cannot be taken on an ‘as needed’ basis.

SSRIs – Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor

This type of medication increases the amount of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved with mood regulation and feelings of well-being. Low levels of this chemical in the brain can cause anxiety and depression.

Common medications that fall under this category include Celexa, Cipramil, Lexapro, Cipralex, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil, Aropax and Zoloft.


Tranquillizers are useful for short-term anxiety issues, such as occurs in a person who has a fear of flying. Tranquilizers can be used on a ‘as needed’ basis, for e.g., when you need to fly. Tranquilizers include barbiturates, azapirones and benzodiazepines, which is the type most commonly used for anxiety treatment.


Benzodiazepines start to produce an effect very fast, i.e., in about 30 minutes after the intake. The intensity of the effect will depend on the dose and also if the medication was taken on an empty stomach or not.

These medications work by calming the nervous system. They also produce muscle relaxation.

The following medications fall within this category: Alprazolam (Xanax), Chlordiazepoxide (Librium), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Diazepam (Valium) and Lorazepam (Ativan).


Beta-Blockers are a type of medication used mainly to treat diseases related to the heart and high-blood pressure. Beta-Blockers can alleviate symptoms of anxiety such as shaky hands, sweating and pounding heart. Because of that, it helps anxious people to concentrate better on the task being performed.

This medication can be used as an aid for social anxiety treatment and also to help with performance anxiety.

Beta blocker medication that is utilized for anxiety includes Propranolol (Inderal) and Atenolol (Tenormin).


Side effects of anxiety medication will vary from person to person and will depend upon the specific medication being taken. Listed below are some common side effects for each different category of medication:


  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Restlessness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Insomnia
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea


  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased alertness
  • Decreased concentration
  • Slower reaction
  • Slower thinking
  • Paradoxical reactions (aggressiveness, irritability, impulsivity, etc.)


  • Weakness, dizziness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth, eyes, and skin

It is essential that anxiety medication is only taken with a doctor’s prescription and under supervision of a mental health professional. Consult your doctor if you think that anxiety treatment medication might assist in managing your anxiety.

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