Anxiety Disorders – How to Treat Anxiety with Drugs & Medication

anxiety treatments

When faced with threatening or stressful situations, it is normal to have emotional, behavioural, or bodily responses. When such responses are extreme and long lasting, or are inappropriate for the situation, they may interfere with our everyday normal life and activities. Anxiety disorders may affect 10 to 25 percent of us during our lifetime.

Anxiety Disorder Treatment – Many Faces of Anxiety:

All anxiety disorders are not the same. Some may involve excessive worrying about things that matter, as well as the small stuff. Others may involve sudden panic attacks or unrealistic fears (phobias).

And still others may involve compulsively repeating an action for no apparent reason (obsessive-compulsive disorder) or reliving, in the mind, a combat situation, sexual assault, or other traumatic event that was once experienced for real.

Some anti-anxiety medicines relieve these symptoms, others don’t. Often behavioral therapy may be required to chase away these demons. Two commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications are the Valium-related class of drugs called benzodiazepines and the drug buspirone (BuSpar). Antidepressants are also sometimes used for the treatment of anxiety disorders .

Did You Know That … ?

Most individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) intentionally repeat rituals to control what they perceive to be a danger or risk.

Humorous characters experiencing OCDs have been portrayed in the movies (As Good As It Gets, for example) and on TV (Monk). The classic character is Lady Macbeth (with her compulsive need to wash blood from her hands).


About a dozen benzodiazepines are marketed in the United States and Canada, the best known being diazepam (Valium). Their differences are primarily based on how long it takes them to begin to act and how long they remain effective.

The benzodiazepine class of drugs is used to treat a wide variety of medical disorders. These include anxiety, insomnia, spastic muscle disorders, and seizure disorders.

Some of these drugs are used to treat all or most of these disorders, whereas others are used more selectively. Ideally, drugs for treating anxiety disorders should calm you down but not knock you out. You want to be able to think clearly and drive safely. You cannot do these things if the drug makes you sleepy.

Unfortunately, benzodiazepines cause some degree of drowsiness and interference with physical performance. Valium-related drugs are highly effective in relieving the symptoms of many anxiety disorders, often within hours after the first dose is taken.

Alprazolam is useful for controlling panic reactions, but has a tendency to be abused. Common side effects of benzodiazepines include drowsiness, dizziness, and impairment of driving. Individuals who have a history of abusing alcohol or other drugs are the most likely candidates to also abuse benzodiazepines.

Using these drugs, even at normal doses for periods of four to six weeks, can lead to dependence on them. Taking benzodiazepines for several months and then suddenly not taking them can result in real signs of withdrawal. These include nervousness, sleep disturbances, and tremors. To avoid these problems, doses should be reduced gradually.

When taken alone, even in high doses, benzodiazepines are virtually “suicide proof.” However, their potential for harm is much greater when they are taken with alcohol or other drugs that produce reduced mental or physical functioning, Benzodiazepines have been reported to cause fetal abnormalities when taken during the first trimester of pregnancy. These drugs should not be used during pregnancy or by nursing mothers.

Buspirone (BUSPAR):

BuSpar is an effective drug for the treatment of anxiety. Unlike Valium-related drugs, it does not cause drowsiness, which may interfere with thinking or operating motor vehicles, nor is it subject to abuse.

BuSpar must be taken for about a week before its anti-anxiety effects begin. Therefore, it is not useful for individuals who need immediate relief.

Anti-depressant Drugs:

Antidepressants were first developed and used for the treatment of depression. This original name is now somewhat misleading and outdated, because some of these same medicines are used to treat anxiety and other medical disorders.

There are several classes of antidepressants. The most widely used are the selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and include such common trade-name drugs as Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft.

These drugs are considered to be relatively safe, have few side effects, and are effective for a number of anxiety disorders, in particular, the long-term management of chronic anxiety. Unlike the benzodiazepines, the anti- anxiety effects of benzodiazepines may require two to four weeks of drug treatment.

Selected tricyclic antidepressants, in particular, venlafaxine (Effexor) and monoamine oxidase (MAG) inhibitors, are also used to treat anxiety but cause a wide range of troubling side effects. For a thorough discussion of these drugs or their names, see “Depression. ”

All About Treating Anxiety with Anxiety Medication:

  • Valium and other benzodiazepines are highly effective in rapidly relieving many anxiety symptoms. They cause a low degree of drowsiness and impairment of physical activities that require alertness.
  • Regular benzodiazepine use may cause a drug-dependent state. In addition, they should never be taken with alcohol or during pregnancy.
  • BuSpar effectively relieves anxiety only after it is taken for about a week. This drug does not cause sedation or a dependent state.
  • Antidepressants, such as the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), are also useful for the relief of some anxiety disorders.

Drugs & Medications Used for Anxiety:

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