November 27, 2015
font size

Anxiety Medications (cont.)

Medical Editor:

Are there differences among anxiety medications?

Anxiety medications in the same class work in a similar way and there are similarities between classes of anxiety medications. The SSRIs affect brain serotonin levels. They are useful for treating most types of anxiety. But other antidepressants, including the tricyclics (TCAs) and the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), that also act on brain serotonin and norepinephrine levels have more limited use because of their side effects and drug interactions.

The anxiolytic drugs, which specifically target these disorders, work in different ways and have specific treatment applications. Benzodiazepines act on the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). Buspirone (BuSpar) enhances the activity of serotonin. The antihistamine hydroxyzine (Atarax, Vistaril), has a sedative effect by blocking certain receptors in the brain.

Medications normally used to treat high blood pressure also have specific off-label uses for treating panic disorders. The beta-blockers propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin) have become a popular remedy for performance anxiety, also known as stage fright. They may also have some use in PTSD. The alpha-blocker prazosin (Minipress) eases nightmares from PTSD. Other alpha-blockers, such as clonidine (Catapres) and guanfacine (Tenex), may also be useful for treating PTSD.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/30/2015

Emotional Wellness

Get tips on therapy and treatment.

Use Pill Finder Find it Now See Interactions

Pill Identifier on RxList

  • quick, easy,
    pill identification

Find a Local Pharmacy

  • including 24 hour, pharmacies

Interaction Checker

  • Check potential drug interactions
Search the Medical Dictionary for Health Definitions & Medical Abbreviations