Treating Anxiety Disorders with Medication

An anxiety disorder can make you feel nervous or apprehensive, even without a clear reason. Certain anxiety disorders can cause intense feelings of fear or panic. You may even have physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat or dizziness. If you have these feelings, you don’t have to suffer anymore. Treatment to help you overcome your fears will likely include therapy (also called counseling). Medication may also be prescribed to help control your symptoms.

Elderly woman with pill box.


Certain medications may be prescribed to help control your symptoms. As a result, you may feel less anxious. You may also feel able to move forward with therapy. At first, medications and dosages may need to be adjusted to find what works best for you. Try to be patient. Tell your health care provider how a medication makes you feel. This way, you can work together to find the treatment that’s best for you. Keep in mind that medications can have side effects. Talk to your provider about any side effects that are bothering you. Changing the dose or type of medication may help. Don’t stop taking medication on your own because it can cause symptoms to come back.

  • Anti-anxiety medication: This medication eases symptoms and helps you relax. Your health care provider will explain when and how to use it. It may be prescribed for use before situations that makes you anxious. Or, you may be told to take it on a regular schedule. Anti-anxiety medication may make you feel a little sleepy or “out of it.” Don’t drive a car or operate machinery while on this medication, until you know how it affects you.


Never use alcohol or other drugs with anti-anxiety medications. This could result in loss of muscular control, sedation, coma or death. Also, use only the amount of medication prescribed for you. If you think you may have taken too much, get emergency care right away.

  • Antidepressant medication: This kind of medication is often used to treat anxiety, even if you aren’t depressed. An antidepressant helps balance out brain chemicals. This helps keep anxiety under control. This medication is taken on a schedule. It takes a few weeks to start working. If you don’t notice a change at first, you may just need more time. But if you don’t notice results after the first few weeks, tell your provider.

Keep taking medications as prescribed

Never change your dosage or stop taking your medications without talking to your health care provider first. Keep the following in mind:

  • Some medications must be taken on a schedule. Make this part of your daily routine. For instance, always take your pill before brushing your teeth. A pillbox can help you remember if you’ve taken your medication each day.

  • Medications are often taken for 6 to 12 months. Your health care provider will then evaluate whether you need to stay on them. Many people who have also had therapy may no longer need medication to manage anxiety.

  • You may need to stop taking medication slowly to give your body time to adjust. When it’s time to stop, your health care provider will tell you more. Remember: Never stop taking your medication without talking to your provider first.

  • If symptoms return, you may need to start taking medications again. This isn’t your fault. It’s just the nature of your anxiety disorder.

Special concerns

  • Side effects: Medications may cause side effects. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist what you can expect. They may have ideas for avoiding some side effects.

  • Sexual problems: Some antidepressants can affect your desire for sex or your ability to have an orgasm. A change in dosage or medication often solves the problem. If you have a sexual side effect that concerns you, tell your health care provider.

  • Addiction: Antidepressants are not addictive. And if you’ve never had a problem with drugs or alcohol, you likely won’t have a problem with anti-anxiety medication. But if you have history of addiction, you may need to avoid this medication.

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