Overcoming Anxiety

resources for the anxious among us

Common Anxiety Medications

A bit of worry can be a healthy thing. It spurs you to action, encouraging you to solve your problems, and better yourself. When you’re constantly preoccupied with worst-case scenarios and what-ifs, however, anxiety can quickly turn from a blessing into a curse. Being overly anxious all the time saps you of your emotional energy, renders you incapable of action when you need to be, and drastically reduces your quality of living.

Sometimes, psychotherapy and self-reflection techniques suffice in helping you to get rid of this troublesome condition. Unfortunately, these techniques do not always work, and medication may be an inescapable requirement to enable a person with anxiety to function in society once again. This article explores the various types of anxiety medication, listing the advantages and disadvantages of each kind.

Medications Typically Prescribed for Treating Anxiety

Tranquilizers

Tranquilizers are medications that helps relieve anxiety by decreasing the activity of the central nervous system. They have a relaxing, soothing effect that can be very perceptible. They are the most commonly prescribed kind of antianxiety medication by far. In addition to their anxiety dispelling effects, tranquilizers may also double as muscle relaxants or sleeping pills. Tranquilizers are usually of the benzodiazepine family of drugs, which includes:

  • Alprazolam
  • Diazepam
  • Clonazepam
  • Lorazepam

These benzodiazepines are very potent and fast acting, relieving a person of their anxiety symptoms in an hour or less. They are especially helpful during particularly difficult anxiety episodes or panic attacks.

Side Effects of Tranquilizers

Because benzodiazepines work by reducing brain activity, they can have many unwanted side effects. These include fogginess sleepiness, lack of coordination, and a feeling of hangover after the effects of the drug subside. These drugs are also metabolized very slowly, causing them to build up in the body. People who use these drugs for prolonged durations of time may be suspect to over-sedation, a state of pseudo-drunkenness.

Sometimes, tranquilizers may have the complete opposite effect from the intended calming of the nervous system. Some of the most paradoxical reactions to tranquilizers include:

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Aggressiveness
  • Hallucinations
  • Mania
  • Hostility

Children (below 18) and the elderly (above 65) are more susceptible to these effects than other age groups.

Antidepressants

The adverse effects of tranquilizers led people to seek out other kinds of medication to treat their anxiety. Many medications that were originally intended to treat depression have also been found effective at treating anxiety. Antidepressants that are effective against anxiety can be divided into four main categories: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and atypical antidepressants.

The likelihood of dependency formation and abuse with antidepressants is often much smaller than with tranquilizers. This has led to an increase in their popularity as an anxiety medication. Most antidepressants work by regulating serotonin levels in the brain to elevate mood. In addition to general anxiety, antidepressants can also be effective in treating other, more specialized forms of anxiety including obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder.

Downsides of Antidepressants as Antianxiety Medications

Antidepressants may take anywhere between four and six weeks until their mood regulating effects begin to set in, making them unsuitable for a panic attacks or prolonged anxiety episodes. They are also associated with numerous inconvenient side effects including:

  • Nervousness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Weight gain

Taken for prolonged durations of time, antidepressants may also cause physical dependencies, the same as tranquilizers. Withdrawal can be an issue when the person stops taking these drugs, causing symptoms including:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Flulike symptoms

Buspirone

Buspirone is a relatively recent antianxiety drug that works to reduce anxiety by providing a mild tranquilizing effect while simultaneously boosting serotonin and inhibiting dopamine uptake in the brain. This drug is very slow acting in comparison to regular tranquilizers, taking around two weeks to start alleviating anxiety symptoms. However, it has several advantages over regular tranquilizers: it doesn’t impair memory and coordination, has minimal withdrawal effects, and does not lead to the development of a serious dependency. These three advantages make it ideal for people who are older and people with a history of substance abuse.

Downsides of Buspirone

Buspirone is generally very limited in its effectiveness against more acute types of anxiety such as posttraumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It only seems to work for generalized anxiety disorder. Not only does it share many of the side effects of conventional tranquilizers, it also disrupts the digestive system with side effects of its own.

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea

-are all side effects that are associated with Buspirone.

Although medications may provide temporary relief from the symptoms of anxiety, they are not a permanent solution. Taking medication for anxiety causes complications of its own including the risk of dependency formation and a host of unwanted side effects including headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Although they may provide temporary reprise from the clutches of anxiety, overcoming this condition through more permanent psychotherapeutic techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy is the better, more permanent option.