Published On: November 23, 2022
Reviewed On: November 23, 2022
Updated On: July 5, 2023
A whopping 31% of U.S. adults will have an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. According to research done by Harvard for the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS), anxiety affected an estimated 19.1% of adults in the United States over a year and a half period.
Severe anxiety can be a crippling condition that dominates everything you do. Without proper therapy and anxiety treatment, you may begin feeling overwhelmed and incapable of dealing with your anxiety. The effects of severe anxiety can begin to ripple into every aspect of your daily life.
While we all experience anxiety to some degree at one point or another in life, it’s not normal for it to start taking over your world. If you find this is the case, maybe it’s time to start thinking about anxiety medication and seeing an online psychiatrist.
Keep reading to learn more about the best medications for anxiety, what you need to ask before making any decisions, and more on how to deal with anxiety.
There are some well-known anti-anxiety meds that may be worth looking into if you’re considering medical treatment or if therapy alone isn’t working to reduce your anxiety.
Several types of medication for anxiety have been found effective including:
Antidepressants are often the first line of treatment for those with anxiety disorders. There are two subgroups of antidepressant medication that seem to be most effective in treating anxiety.
These are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants for anxiety. They work by helping your brain make more serotonin — a neurotransmitter that aids in regulating and enhancing mood.
Some SSRIs that are commonly used to treat anxiety include:
These inhibit reabsorption of certain brain chemicals that can increase or induce anxiety. While SSRIs work only on serotonin, SNRIs can combat low levels of serotonin as well as norepinephrine, both of which impact mood.
Some SNRIs that are commonly used to treat anxiety include:
There are a few other antidepressants that can help with anxiety symptoms in addition to SSRIs and SNRIs. They include:
Tricyclic antidepressants are used in the treatment of anxiety or depression because they work to balance serotonin and norepinephrine — neurotransmitters in your brain. Too much of these chemicals can result in anxiety. TCAs are older drugs that aren’t as common and may have more side effects than some newer drug options do.
MAOIs are yet another type of antidepressant that can be used as an off-label treatment for anxiety. While off-label treatment means the use of a treatment that is approved for a condition other than yours, this is a legal and common way that many conditions are treated. MAOIs are typically prescribed to treat social phobias or panic disorder. MAOIs increase how many transmitters are working to regulate your mood.
Some MAOIs that are used to treat anxiety (again, as an off-label treatment) include:
Buspirone (BuSpar) is often prescribed in addition to an antidepressant. It can be used when treating general anxiety disorder. While it’s not totally understood why or how buspirone works, it’s thought to affect some of the chemicals in the brain that help regulate mood.
Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine that’s been approved to treat anxiety. It works by reducing some of the activity in the central nervous system, so it acts as a sedative that can treat tension and anxiety. However, it’s also associated with drowsiness and is used for insomnia, so it may not work for everyone.
There are several brand names for hydroxyzine:
Benzodiazepines are fast acting and known to reduce anxiety by increasing neurotransmitter activity that has a relaxed, sedative effect. They’re commonly prescribed for people who have generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or panic disorder.
The caveat to benzodiazepines is people can easily build up a tolerance to them and they’re addictive. They’re typically not prescribed for a long time period. These are prescribed in conjunction with other medications and rarely used as a sole agent.
While beta-blockers are a commonly known treatment for heart conditions, they’re also an off-label option for anxiety. Beta-blockers can work for short-term anxiety, like social phobias, stage or speech fright, etc. They’re known to potentially help reduce physical symptoms in certain anxiety disorders — for example, the rapid heart rate or sweating that can be associated with social anxiety disorder.
Since they block the effects of adrenaline (epinephrine) on beta receptors, beta-blockers are considered a beta-adrenoceptor antagonist. Epinephrine is the hormone that plays a significant role in our fight or flight response which is associated with anxiety.
The most commonly prescribed beta-blocker that’s used as an anti-anxiety medication is:
The following anxiety medication list shares some (but not all) of the most prescribed medications for anxiety available.
|Lexapro||Escitalopram||SSRI that restores balance of serotonin in the brain to help with anxiety.|
|Zoloft||Sertraline||Another SSRI used to treat a variety of mood disorders. Doesn’t work immediately; can take anywhere from two to six weeks to start reducing anxiety symptoms.|
|Paxil||Paroxetine||SSRI that’s approved to treat general anxiety disorder (GAD) and other anxiety disorders.|
|Cymbalta||Duloxetine||Antidepressant that works to relieve symptoms of anxiety and also treats nerve pain.|
|Wellbutrin||Bupropion||Used to treat anxiety, depression, and to help people quit smoking.|
|BuSpar||Buspirone||Helps people relax, think clearly and worry less to alleviate some symptoms of anxiety.|
|Desyrel, Desyrel Dividose, Oleptro||Trazodone||An antidepressant and sedative that’s known to improve mood, appetite, and energy level while decreasing anxiety.|
|Neurontin||Gabapentin||Also treats nerve pain and seizures.|
|Inderal LA, Hemangeol, InnoPran XL||Propranolol||A beta-blocker that treats a variety of symptoms and conditions. Typically used for short-term relief of social anxiety.|
Talk to your psychiatrist or healthcare professional about the possible risks and benefits associated with the above anxiety medications before starting treatment.
If you’re thinking about anti-anxiety meds, you should talk to your doctor about getting a prescription. Together, you can come up with the most effective course of treatment to help you manage your anxiety.
Treatment will likely include more than just medication though. Over the counter anxiety medication might also be an option. Talk therapy (psychotherapy) is another effective treatment technique that’s often used, either on its own or in conjunction with anxiety medication.
In order to get anxiety medication, the following steps should be taken:
Any time you decide to treat a mental health condition with medication — including anxiety — you want to be confident that you understand all your options. Taking the time to discuss your treatment plan with a psychiatrist, doctor, or other healthcare provider is well worth it. You’ll be able to learn more about your options, including what alternatives there are to medication, as well as any potential benefits and drawbacks certain medications might have.
Be sure to have a candid conversation about what medication can mean for you should you decide to take it.
If you’re ready to seek anxiety treatment through medication, get connected with a prescriber.
Hcp.med.harvard.edu. Published 2021. Accessed October 11, 2021.
Borza L. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2017;19(2):203-208.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Accessed October 11, 2021.
NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nami.org. Published 2021. Accessed October 11, 2021.
Entringer, PharmD. S. Drugs.com. Published 2020. Accessed October 11, 2021.
Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD, DFAPA, has over 20 years of clinical experience specializing in mood disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, and ADHD. Dr. Munir believes in “back to basics” the therapeutic alliance between the physician and patients. The hallmark of this alliance is the emphatic process whereby the patient is not only enabled, but educated and encouraged, to take an active role in their psychiatric care and wellbeing.