There is a multitude of ways to treat Anxiety and the various forms of anxiety (panic attacks, social anxiety) with medicine. Quite often we use Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors to treat most forms of Anxiety as they are FDA approved for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder and Social anxiety. We commonly get “why are you putting me on an antidepressant if I am anxious and NOT depressed?”
Benzodiazepines are another main class of drugs that can treat a range of conditions including anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, alcohol withdrawal, and insomnia. The short-term use of these medications is quite safe and effective, however long-term use can lead to tolerance, dependence, and cognitive dulling. There are different types of benzodiazepines (long vs short acting for example) and they have different uses.
- alprazolam (Xanax)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- diazepam (Valium)
- lorazepam (Ativan)
- temazepam (restoril)
Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the neurotransmitter known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). Neurotransmitters like GABA are chemicals that communicate messages between brain cells. These messages can have either a stimulating or a calming effect. GABA is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect to the body. When a person feels anxious the brain feels overstimulated. With the use of benzodiazepines the brain will send messages to counter this overstimulation. Like putting water on a fire.
Other Anxiety medications: There are fortunately a multitude of other medicines that can help alleviate anxiety such as propranol ( a beta blocker) to help with physical symptoms of anxiety including palpitations, hydroxyzine an antihistamine medicine that often gives a calming effect and/or Buspirone (Buspar) that is FDA approved for anxiety.