Medication can be very helpful for sufferers of anxiety as its decreases anxiety symptoms whilst you are taking it. HOWEVER, MEDICATION DOES NOT CURE ANXIETY DISORDERS. Some people may choose not to use medications for anxiety, others will choose to combine cognitive behavioural therapy or some other type of therapy with medication, and some people may only utilise medication.
Benefits of Anxiety Medication
- Medication can decrease the distressing physical symptoms of anxiety. e.g. heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, etc.
- Medication can reduce the negative thoughts experienced by anxiety sufferers.
- Anxiety sufferers, who also have depression, can find anti-depressant medication improves their mood as well as decreasing their anxiety
Types of Medications For Anxiety
Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s)
SSRI’s are anti-depressants and are currently the most popular anti-depression / anti-anxiety drugs as they have fewer side effects than MAOI’s. SSRI’s include drugs such as Prozac, Luvox and Aropax. SSRI’s must be taken on a daily basis for at least a few weeks before they are effective.
SSRI drugs can interact with other drugs so before taking any medication in addition to your SSRI you should check with your doctor that is safe to do so.
Side effects may include poor sleep, fatigue and increased sweating. There may also be an adverse impact on one’s sexual functioning.
Seratonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI’s)
SNRI antidepressants influence the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Venlafaxine (Effexor) is an example of an SNRI.
Side effects may include nausea, sexual dysfunction, sweating, sleep disturbance and tremors, as well as an increase in blood pressure.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI’s)
MAOI’s are antidepressants that work by inhibiting the breakdown of seratonin and norepinephrine in the brain, thus causing a reduction in the symptoms of anxiety.
People taking MAO’s have to follow a strict diet. They must not eat certain foods which contain tyramine (e.g. most aged cheeses, most alcoholic beverages, sausage products and Marmite) as these foods can interact with the medication to suddenly increase blood pressure and cause symptoms such as headaches and vomiting. Users of MAOI’s also have to be careful about drugs they take in addition to their MAOI. A severe high blood pressure reaction, in response to inappropriate food, beverages or medication, left untreated can lead to stroke or death.
Common side effects of MAOIS include insomnia, fatigue or drowsiness, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain.
Benzodiazepines include drugs such as Valium, Ducene, Serepax, Xanax and Kalma. Benzodiazepines work very quickly to calm you but their effects do not last long.
Single doses can cause fatigue and drowsiness and therefore reduce your ability to think on your feet (e.g. in a job interview or oral exam).
Benzodiazepines have some significant drawbacks. Firstly, people who take benzodiazepines on a daily basis for more than a few weeks may become physically dependent upon them. Therefore, these drugs should not be ceased abruptly as there is the risk of rebound anxiety and withdrawal effects. Anyone planning to reduce and or cease their intake of benzodiazepines should do so in consultation with their doctor.
Secondly, these drugs may be abused; therefore people who have a history of substance abuse may be advised to avoid benzodiazepines.
Thirdly, alcohol should not be consumed when you are taking benzodiazepines as it increases the sedative effect of the medication.
Furthermore, people taking benzodiazpines need to exercise caution when driving or operating potentially dangerous machinery until they work out how they respond to the medication.
Side effects may include poor memory, fatigue, sleeping longer, impaired coordination, and loss of interest in sex. Benzodiazepines may also worsen a sufferer’s depression.
Beta blockers, such as Inderal, are used to treat anxiety.
Beta blockers can alleviate heart palpitations and stop one’s hands from trembling as they block adrenaline receptors in the heart and muscles. They may also be helpful for blushing and sweating. These drugs are taken about an hour before a feared event and their effects last a couple of hours.
Beta blockers appear to be best used for performance anxiety. i.e. public speaking, exams, music recitals etc. Beta blockers may be less effective at reducing negative anxiety provoking thoughts than they are at reducing physical anxiety symptoms such as heart palpitations and tremor. One of the limitations of using beta blockers is that if a feared social event is sprung on you without warning you don’t have an hour for the drugs to take effect.
Beta blockers generally cannot be used by asthmatics, diabetics or people with some forms of heart disease,
Medication alone can’t cure anxiety issues. Call our team of Melbourne psychologists at 03 9819 3671 and see how anxiety therapy can help.
Burns, D. D (1999). The Feeling Good Handbook. New York, New York. Plume.
The information provided here is only a summary and is NOT intended as a substitute for a medical consultation. No assurance can be given that the information contained on this site will always include the most recent findings or developments with respect to a particular topic. Should you be interested in taking medication for your anxiety, you should discuss the pros and cons of treatment, side effects and so forth with a doctor. A number of factors need to be taken into account when prescribing medication, including the nature of your anxiety, your medical history and the other drugs you are taking.