Medication As A Part Of Treatment For Anxiety Disorders
Medication treatment of anxiety disorders is oftentimes used in conjunction with therapy. Medication is safe and effective when used properly and may be a short-term or long-term treatment option depending on severity of symptoms, other medical conditions, and other individual circumstances. However, it can take time and patience to find the drug or combination of drugs that works best for you.
Variety Of Anxiety Disorder Medications
There are four major classes of medications that are commonly used in the treatment of anxiety disorders:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors relieve anxiety symptoms by blocking the re-absorption, or re-uptake of serotonin by certain nerve cells in the brain, leaving more serotonin available so mood is improved. SSRI’s such as citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline, generally produce fewer side effects when compared with tricyclic antidepressants. These medications are effective for all kinds of anxiety disorders; however obsessive-compulsive disorder may require higher doses. Common side effects can include insomnia or sleepiness, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain.
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors or SNRI class (venlafaxine and duloxetine) work on two levels: by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain through inhibition of their re-absorption into brain cells. SNRI’s are considered to be a first line treatment, especially for generalized anxiety disorder. Common side effects can include stomach upset, insomnia, headache, sexual dysfunction, and a minor increase in blood pressure.
Benzodiazepines (alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, and lorazepam) are frequently used for short-term management of anxiety. They are highly effective in promoting relaxation and reducing muscular tension and other physical anxiety symptoms. One caution: long-term use may require increased doses to achieve the same effect and this could lead to problems related to tolerance and dependence.
Tricyclic Antidepressants such as amitriptyline, imipramine, and nortriptyline serve the same purpose as benzodiazepines. They are effective in the treatment of anxiety and present less risk involved with long-term use. Side effects (some of which can be significant) include orthostatic hypotension (a drop in blood pressure upon standing), constipation, urinary retention, dry mouth, and blurry vision.
Be sure to contact your physician if you experience side effects, even if you are not sure that a certain symptom is caused by your anxiety disorder medication. Do not stop taking the medication without speaking with the prescribing physician because abruptly stopping a medication can sometimes cause other health risks.
Before Starting Medication Treatment:
We can help you if you feel you have anxiety.
Before you begin taking anxiety disorder medications, inform your clinician of other medications you are taking, including prescriptions, vitamins, and over-the-counter drugs such as herbal or dietary supplements. This simple precaution can help you avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.
What To Ask About Anxiety Disorder Medications
Ask questions about the medication, such as when to take it, what side effects there may be, and whether there are any foods or beverages to avoid while taking the medication.
Ask your clinician how long you should be on the medication before you begin to see results and what results you should expect.
Your pharmacist should also be able to answer your questions, advise you of possible drug interactions and side effects, and the instructions for use.
Be sure to advise your family physician that you are taking medication for an anxiety disorder.
Ask how often you should see your doctor for a medication review.
Generally speaking, people suffering from anxiety disorders can benefit from a combination of medication and therapy.