What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is our body's normal response to new, stressful, or potentially harmful situations. Anxiety disorder, however, is a pervasive condition that leads to constant worrying caused by real or perceived stress and/or danger.
The primary kinds of anxiety disorders are:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (pervasive anxiousness present across situations)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (excessive anxiety in social settings)
- Panic Disorder (frequent panic attacks that might occur out of nowhere)
- Phobias (intense, anxiety-inducing fear of specific things or situations).
Some anxiety treatment or symptom management options include therapy, mindfulness-based practices, and medications. In this blog, we will take you through everything you need to know if you are considering starting with medication for anxiety.
What are Anxiety Medications?
Anxiety medications must always be prescribed by a psychiatrist. They can include a variety of medications, all aimed at controlling the symptoms of anxiety. Here are three common types of anxiety medications:
- Antidepressants (Fluoxetine, Duloxetine, Venlafaxine, etc.)
- Anxiolytics (Benzodiazepines, Hydroxyzine, Buspirone, etc.)
- Beta-Blockers (Propranolol, Atenolol, Prazosin, etc.)
Does medication actually help anxiety? Well, it is important to remember that most psychological disorders are not purely biological. While medication cannot 'cure' anxiety, it can supplement ongoing therapy and help you manage anxiety-related symptoms.
How Does Medication Help Treat Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are often attributed to an imbalance of brain chemicals such as serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and norepinephrine. While serotonin is commonly associated with a general sense of well-being, good sleep, and emotional regulation, GABA and norepinephrine also play vital roles in keeping us relaxed and calm.
Antidepressants typically work by either increasing the amount of serotonin available for the brain to utilise (SSRIs) or increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine (SNRIs). This results in more balanced brain chemistry and better cognitive functioning.
Anxiolytics or anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines calm a hyper-aroused brain by targeting the GABA levels. Other anxiolytics, such as buspirone, boost serotonin activity while inhibiting certain brain receptors, controlling the sense of foreboding anxiety in the process.
On the other hand, beta-blockers address our physiological responses rather than the brain chemicals. They block the physiological symptoms prompted by anxiety, such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, or tremors.
Finally, medications are not a one-size-fits-all solution; your doctor may prescribe you different medications to see how you react to them before settling on one.
Possible Side Effects Of Anxiety Medication And Precautions
You should take any medication only after consulting a licensed medical professional. Some possible side effects and precautions to keep in mind while taking anxiety medications are:
- Avoid suddenly discontinuing any anxiety medication; it can worsen your symptoms or lead to other complications.
- Avoid taking other medications like aspirin without consulting your psychiatrist if you’re on antidepressants, as these can cause adverse reactions.
- You should also discuss your alcohol intake with your doctor, as certain medications can cause liver damage, especially for people with pre-existing liver conditions or a history of alcohol abuse.
- Certain anxiety medications might cause drowsiness, sexual dysfunctions, stomach issues, or nausea. Make sure to ask your doctor about the side effects of any medicine they prescribe you.
- Refrain from taking different types of anxiety medications together unless specifically recommended by your psychiatrist.
- Benzodiazepines should only be used as a short-term measure. They are essentially sedatives and can cause drowsiness and issues with your memory in the long term. Benzodiazepines can also cause confusion, headaches, and depressive symptoms.
People are often apprehensive about unhealthy dependency and harmful side effects when it comes to psychiatric medications. However, as long as you take your meds according to your prescriptions and at the recommended frequency, you need not worry about either!
It can be overwhelming to figure out how to manage your anxiety and seek help for it. That's why we are here to help you! Rocket Health's team of experts is a click away if you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety and are not sure how or where to seek professional support. With Rocket Health, you can now consult experienced, non-judgmental psychiatrists and therapists right from the comfort of your home!