Anxiety is the body’s normal reaction to stress, and for most people, feeling anxious before a test, a job interview, or a competition is a typical reaction.
For others, however, anxiety becomes more than just a temporary worry or fear. People suffering from anxiety disorders find that anxiety does not “just go away” and these stressful feelings can interfere with life, job performance, relationships, and school work.
Anxiety disorders come in different shades, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and various phobia-related disorders. Just like the different kinds of anxiety disorders, different medications can be used to alleviate the pain and suffering of chronic anxiety.
What Does Anxiety Feel Like?
Anxiety presents differently for different people. Some may have butterflies in the stomach or feel like their heart is racing.
For those with anxiety disorders, the feelings may range from panic attacks and feelings of hopelessness to difficulty sleeping and having thoughts or worries you can’t control.
Your anxiety symptoms might be totally different from someone else’s, so it’s vital to be clear with your doctor about the feelings you experience and how often you suffer from anxiety.
What Kind of Treatment is Available?
According to Kim Corrigan, R.Ph., director of Pharmacy Pricing and Analytics at Paramount Rx, several types of medications can be used to treat anxiety, including antidepressants, benzodiazepines, buspirone, hydroxyzine, and beta-blockers.
“Antidepressants are often considered a first-line medication for anxiety. The two most common classes of antidepressants used to treat anxiety include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs),” said Corrigan.
Examples of SSRIs include paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft), and citalopram (Celexa). Examples of SNRIs include venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are generally treated with medication, psychotherapy or both, and sufferers should discuss with their doctors which treatment is best for them.
For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy teaches different ways of thinking and behaving when faced with anxiety-trigger situations, while exposure therapy focuses on facing the fears that underly the cause of anxiety disorders.
And while medication won’t cure anxiety disorders, certain prescriptions can alleviate the overwhelming sensations of acute anxiety. Like any medication, anti-anxiety treatments have both benefits and drawbacks.
“Different classes of medications help to alleviate anxiety in different ways. SSRIs and SNRIs work on the brain chemicals serotonin and/or norepinephrine to alleviate anxiety,” Corrigan said. “Benzodiazepines help relieve anxiety by generating a sedative effect.”
Benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), and clonazepam (Klonopin). These medications should be taken with caution as benzodiazepines can be addictive.
Beta-blockers such as propranolol are typically a heart medication but can be prescribed for anxiety symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, and shakiness that accompany performance anxiety.
Hydroxyzine (Atarax, Vistaril) is an antihistamine used to treat allergic reactions. It can also have an effect on serotonin, which is a brain chemical that helps with feelings of happiness and well-being.
One thing to keep in mind is that some of these medications take time to work. “Some medications such as antidepressants typically take four to eight weeks to see a response,” Corrigan said. “If there is no response four to eight weeks after the optimal dose is achieved, or the patient can’t tolerate an adequate dosage, a different medication may be tried. If a patient has failed two drugs within the same class, then trying a different class may be a consideration.”
Talking to Your Doctor
Different drugs may work better for specific types of anxiety disorders, so patients should discuss their symptoms and concerns with their doctor to help decide which medication is best for them. It’s also important to keep in mind that certain herbal supplements, over-the-counter medications, and even caffeine can interact with prescribed medications or make the symptoms of anxiety disorders worse.
Patients with anxiety disorders should talk with their doctor and pharmacist about which substances are safe and which to avoid when taking anti-anxiety medications.
“Patients should speak with a doctor if they are experiencing anxiety,” Corrigan said. “Treatments for anxiety can include psychotherapy, exercise, medication, or a combination of therapies, but treatment will vary based on the individual.”
The free Community Cares Rx discount card can provide up to 70 percent discounts on various generic prescription medications. View our pharmacy locator to see which pharmacies near you are Community Cares Rx partners, and print your discount card today.