Pharmacologic treatments for anxiety are usually very effective. Similar to treating other medical conditions, the first one you try may not be right for you. Don’t give up. Work with your doctor to explore alternatives.
Here are some of the more commonly prescribed medications:
- Benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), and diazepam (Valium) are well known, relatively safe, and often bring quick relief. They are best used when anxiety is relatively short-lived or connected to a time-limited stress. They are sometimes used while waiting for other medications to work. Some people do develop tolerance, that is, the medication ceases to be helpful because the body becomes accustomed to it. Concerns about dependency and addiction are probably over-emphasized. In many individuals, using these medicines as needed is an effective approach. Should this class of medications ever need to be discontinued, it should be done gradually and under a doctor’s direction, because withdrawal reactions do occur.
- Antidepressants are the treatment of choice when anxiety is chronic and persistent or when there are accompanying symptoms of depression. The popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil), often are used as first-line treatments. If SSRIs don’t work, other options are venlafaxine (Effexor) and the older tricyclic antidepressants, such as nortriptyline and imipramine.
- Buspirone (BuSpar) is unique, with a mechanism of action different from benzodiazepines. Dependency and tolerance are not a problem with this medication, but fewer people may find this drug effective.