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Prescription 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 first-line for treating most types of anxiety. 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 5/4/2016

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