Generally, most psychiatrists will prescribe benzodiazepines for anxiety, with the most popular being Ativan (lorazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam). While these medications are usually the first choice, there are however different options used that were not originally created to treat anxiety.
Certain antidepressants are also used in the treatment of anxiety. These medications are different from anti-anxiety medications in several different ways such as a low risk of dependency and abuse. In addition, antidepressants can take anywhere from four to six weeks to fully take effect. These medications can not be used for sudden symptoms of anxiety either.
SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are antidepressant drugs most commonly prescribed for anxiety. These include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Lexapro. SSRIs can treat generalized anxiety disorder as well as more serious anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Side effects include weight gain, stomach upset and nausea, sexual problems, sleepiness and dizziness, nervousness, and headaches. Even more serious side effects can occur, such as the possibility of suicidal thoughts, hostility, and aggression. As with benzodiazepines, sometimes depression and anxiety symptoms are increased with antidepressants.
A look at the mechanism of SSRIs:
This class of antidepressants attempts to correct the chemical imbalance involving serotonin by making more of the neurotransmitter available to the receptor sites of the post-synaptic nerve.
A new medication called BuSpar or Buspirone is being used to treat anxiety. This drug is similar to SSRIs as it reduces serotonin in the brain as well as reducing dopamine which is responsible for increasing heart rate and blood pressure. Another benefit to this medication is that it does not cause loss of memory, coordination or have a tendency to become addictive. It also does not cause side effects such as drowsiness like other anti-anxiety medications such as Ativan. The problem however is that BuSpar is only used for generalized anxiety disorder.
Since prolonged anxiety can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems, beta blockers are sometimes prescribed to treat these problems. They also help deal with physical symptoms of anxiety, such as dizziness, sweating, trembling voice, and rapid heart rate. Beta blockers are best for phobias. Side effects of beta blocker use include nausea, sleepiness, lightheadedness, and a very slow pulse.
Your doctor will be able to determine whether medications such as the ones listed above are necessary. He or she will ask you a series of questions as well as perform some physical tests to decide which medication will befit you the most. It is very important that these drugs take time to work at their optimum capacity and there may be a series of medication changes dependent upon any side effects endured.
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