Prescription Anxiety Medications
Gary D. Vogin, MD
Dr. Vogin is a board-certified general internist, having completed his residency in internal medicine at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia in June 1994. Before deciding on internal medicine, Vogin prepared for a career in pathology and was Outstanding Transitional First Year Graduate at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., in 1991.
- What are anxiety medications and how do they work?
- For what conditions are anxiety medications used?
- Which anxiety medication is used depends on the specific diagnosis
- Are there differences among anxiety medications?
- What are the warnings/precautions/side effects of anti-anxiety medications?
- What are some drug interactions for anti-anxiety drugs?
- What are some examples of anxiety medications?
What are anxiety medications and how do they work?
Anxiety is both a normal and useful response to potentially stressful or dangerous situations. It helps by increasing our awareness of what's going on around us and in other ways. For most people, the anxiety is short lived and normally goes away once the situation has passed. But that is not the case for an estimated 40 million adults in the United States who have some type of anxiety disorder and experience ongoing and unwarranted psychological distress. That distress may also manifest itself in physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, or chest pain.
Anxiety medications include multiple types of drugs that are used to treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders. The three most commonly prescribed types of anxiety medication are antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications -- also known as anxiolytics -- and beta-blockers. The first two types of anxiety medications work primarily by affecting the balance of certain chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. Beta-blockers and other types of drugs are used to address the physical symptoms that may accompany an anxiety disorder. Antihistamines also are used primarily for their sedating effect.
Anxiety disorders are associated with certain chemical imbalances in the brain involving neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma aminobutyric acid or GABA. These chemicals are associated with an individual's sense of well-being or with the ability to relax. Anxiety medications can't cure an anxiety disorder, but by altering the level of these chemicals, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs help control the psychological symptoms. Drugs like beta-blockers block the receptors that are associated with the physiological symptoms of anxiety.
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