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How to Pick the Right Anxiety Medication

Posted Feb 04 2010 10:17pm
Mid section view of a waiter holding a tray of drinks

Somehowafter 10 years of living with anxietyI’ve managed to stay off of medication.  Butfor better or for worsethat’s not the case for most people with anxiety and depression.

In factresearchers believe that up to 10% - or about 30 million people - in the United States alone use an antidepressant. There are also millions more around the world that use antidepressantsbeta blockerssedatives and sometimes even a combination of these drugs to help themselves them cope with their anxiety and depression symptoms.

Many of you are probably well versed in anti-anxiety drug typesbrand namesdosagesetc. So this post is really aimed at those of you that don’t have a clue about these drugs; are on the fence about trying a new drugor for those taking a drug that’s just not doing anything for you.

Solet’s review your options.

When it comes to treating anxiety disorder you have three basic choices.

Anxiety Meds

Antidepressants - Perhaps the most widely prescribed and consumed “happy pill” on the planet. The term antidepressants is kind of a misnomerbecause antidepressants are actually a category of drugand not just a drug. Sothere are more than one kind and they all work differently.

For exampleMAOI’s are a potent antidepressant that regulate MAOI’s (enzymes that effect neurotransmitters) so that they don’t get too high or too low thus preventing neurological problems.

There are also SSRI’sTCA’sand SNRI’s. These drugs all act on or effect the brains chemical messengerscalled neurotransmitters. Researchers believe that when these brain chemicals (like serotonin) are out of whack it can cause anxiety or episodes of depression. These drugs are meant to correct the imbalance of these “brain juices.”

Type: Mood enhancer.

Side effects: Nauseaweight gainsexual side effectsfatigueinsomniadry mouthblurred visionagitationanxietydisturbing thoughts.


SSRI’s - ZoloftProzacPaxilCelexaLexapro.

SNRI’s - CymbaltaEffexorPristiq.

TCA’s - SurmonPamelorTofranilNorpraminElavil.

Beta Blockers - These drugs are generally used by cardiac patientsbut they are also prescribed for anxiety. Unlike antidepressantsthese drugs are meant to calm anxiety symptoms like palpitationssweatingfast breathing - basically panic symptoms. They also lower your heart rate.

Type: Symptom suppressor.

Side effects: fatiguecold handsdizzinessweaknessshortness of breathinsomniadepression.

Examples: CoregSectralTenorminBystolicCorgardZebetaBisoprolol.

Benzodiazepine - When you think “benzo” think Valium. This is a sedative drugmeant to relax musclesreduce anxietyand probably put you to sleep. As the video I included pointed outthese drugs can be addictiveso in general they are only prescribed for short periods of time.

Type: Sedative.

Side effects:drowsinessdizzinessblurred visionheadacheconfusiondepressionweaknesschange in heart rate.

Depending on what ails you - it’s possible to pick a med that acts on your main problem specifically. Sayfor examplethat you have frequent panic attacks or you get uneasy in social settings. In this casea beta blocker could be a good choice because it calms phyiscal symptoms.

If on the other handyou have trouble relaxing or sleepingthen a benzodiazepine may be a good call.

And if you have depressionconstant anxietyand disturbing thoughts (like suicide)then an antidepressant may help you.

There are three main things to keep in mind when deciding on what drug to use or when deciding if drugs are even something you want to try.

  • Make sure that you talk to your doctor. That isdon’t just walk in there and take whatever is given to you. Alsodon’t insist on a drug you’re not sure about. Get informedthen ask questions and make the decision with your doctor.
  • Beware of all side effects and possible reactions with other medications you’re taking.
  • Understand that drugs will not cure you. Sometimes we all have difficult moments and hope for a miracle; but this is not what drugs are. They can provide the short-term relief you need as you seek therapy or other means of healing yourself. Ultimatelydrugs only mask your symptomsthey don’t make anything go away indefinitely.

Personally I don’t take drugs because I feel that in my case they are not necessary. For methe risks outweigh the benefits. But for you the situation could be totally different.

I think that as long as you’re well informedhave a good doctorand a planyou should be fine. Don’t feel guilty or weak for having to take medication. By the same tokendon’t let others pressure you into taking drugs that you may not need or want.

The issue of whether drugs are helpful in the treatment of anxiety and depression is under some debate.  But - as of today - the consensus is that drugs are helpful.  In the medical communityfor exampleanti-anxiety drugs are widely seen (and used) as an effective treatment for anxiety disorder. Keep in mind that drugs can be dangerousbut they can also be a lifesaver. I’m not an anti-drug zealotall I’ve ever said is that you should do what works and what’s safe.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advicediagnosisor treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


Copyright ©  2008 Anxiety Guru

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