Feeling anxious sometimes is normal; however, when you cannot control your worries and it affects your everyday life, you might have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is complex, which is why your doctor or healthcare provider will need to ask detailed questions about what you are experiencing.
Health professionals are able to help. The first step is usually a psychological therapy. Your doctor might refer you to a psychologist for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is a type of psychological therapy that can help you change your thoughts and behaviours.
If your anxiety is moderate or severe, or you do not feel better with psychological therapy, your doctor might also prescribe medications.
Types of anxiety medicines
Medications for anxiety include antidepressants and benzodiazepines.
There are several kinds of antidepressants, but the ones most commonly used to treat anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medicines increase the level of certain chemicals in your brain that can affect your mood.
Most people who take antidepressants will be advised to take them for at least 12 months, if they are tolerating them well.
Benzodiazepines, also known as sedatives, are usually only used to reduce anxiety for a short term (less than a month, and the shorter the safer) as they can be addictive. Benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed to assist sleep.
Important information about anxiety medication
Take your anxiety medication as prescribed. Do not adjust doses on your own without consulting your doctor. Don’t drink alcohol while taking anti-anxiety medication.
Some antidepressants can cause a harmful reaction when taken with certain other medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you take any other medications, including sleeping pills and painkillers.
If you are not sure about taking medications to treat anxiety, ask your doctor about the following:
- What are the benefits of the particular medication for anxiety?
- What are the risks of the medication?
- What are the possible side effects?
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Last reviewed: February 2018