There are a large variety of medications that are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety & panic attacks. In this section we go over each medication & the common brand names for each. We also have included a side effects section and information regarding the specific medication and children & pregnant or nursing women. We streamlined the searching process for you: click any of the above links to take you directly to the section you’re looking for.  If you’d like to contribute a helpful resource, or have any comments, questions, or concerns, please contact us at together@anxietyheadquarters.com

Anticonvulsants

Anticonvulsants are prescribed for a variety of reasons, generally for the treatment of epileptic seizures. More and more commonly, anticonvulsants may be prescribed by doctors for the treatment of panic attacks, generalized anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Anticonvulsants work by acting as a “mood stabilizer”, by suppressing the rapid quick-fire of neurons within the brain. They are sometimes referred to as “antiepileptic drugs (AEDs)” or “antiseizure drugs”.

List of Commonly Prescribed Anticonvulsants:

  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Pregabalin (Lyrica)
  • Valproic Acid (Depakote)

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Common Side Effects of Anticonvulsants

Anticonvulsants are generally considered “mood stabilizers” and have fairly minor side effects, if any. These can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Headaches
  • Flatulence

If you ever encounter uncomfortable or frightening physical or mental symptoms, consult your doctor immediately to see what other options are available. Mental health medication research is an ongoing task, and innovations in the field are being made every day. If you ever experience suicidal thoughts and have an urge to act on them, consult with your doctor or call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.

Anticonvulsants & Children

In general, anticonvulsants are only FDA approved and prescribed to children for seizure disorders, not anxiety or panic attacks. Other options will more than likely take precedence over this category of medication, such as utilizing SSRIs.

Anticonvulsants & Pregnant Women

There is a general lack of data in regards to anticonvulsant use in women who are pregnant, but similar to anticonvulsant use in children, it is safer and more likely that a pregnant woman will be prescribed a different type of medication to help handle anxiety and panic attacks. This resource by Medscape provides valuable information regarding anticonvulsants and pregnancy.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines, while normally used for allergic reactions, are sometimes prescribed for anxiety and panic attacks. Antihistamines work by reducing the amount of histamines in your body that it naturally produces. Histamines produce physical reactions in your body, so antihistamines can help calm your body and relax your inner muscles. They are generally given on a short-term basis while a longer-term solution is implemented such as psychotherapy or letting a long-term medication like an SSRI kick in.

One of the most common antihistamines prescribed for anxiety is Hydroxyzine, but there are a variety of antihistamines, available both through prescription and over the counter, that can help settle the physical symptoms of anxiety and panic. Antihistamines come in a range of options, including pill form, nasal sprays, or injections.

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Antihistamines are relatively safe and harmless, but some users can experience minor side effects, such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache

Antihistamines have shown to be safe for use in both children and pregnant women, but you should always consult with your doctor first before starting any type of medication routine. If you ever encounter uncomfortable or frightening physical or mental symptoms, consult your doctor immediately to see what other options are available. Mental health medication research is an ongoing task, and innovations in the field are being made every day. If you ever experience suicidal thoughts and have an urge to act on them, consult with your doctor or call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.

Benzodiazepines (Benzos)

Benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as benzos, are a type of medication generally prescribed my doctors on an as-needed basis. They treat and help deal with a variety of issues, including: insomnia, panic attacks, general anxiety, seizures, & alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines work by affecting the central nervous system of the body, specifically by interacting with gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) neurotransmitters in the brain. Benzos “enhance” the neurotransmitter by allowing chloride ions to enter the neuron. In turn, this makes the neuron negatively charged, and becomes resistant to excitation. This contributes to the calming of the body and muscles.

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed in combination with another medication, in most cases with a long-term medication such as an SSRI, to help relieve anxiety and stress. Benzos are considered a short-term “band-aid” for anxiety and panic-attack symptoms, and can easily become addictive and therefore abused. Instead of getting the permanent help they need via a combination of therapy & medication, some anxiety sufferers begin to rely on benzodiazepines to help them cope with their physical feelings and emotions. It is a dangerous spiral that every benzo user needs to be aware of. Many times, doctors will start patients on a low dose to let the patient become accustomed, and will sometimes schedule a monthly-checkup to ensure that the medication isn’t being abused. Benzodiazepines come in a variety of types & amounts. Some are fast-acting with short half-lives, generally having effects within 15 minutes, such as Xanax. Others may have a longer half-life, which means they are slower-acting but last longer than others, such as Klonopin. Generally, benzos with a shorter half-life like Xanax have increased physical effects and are more commonly abused.

It is always important that you do your own research when being prescribed medication so you know what you will experience and how you will react. If you know that you have an addictive personality, let your doctor know that so he can adjust your medication accordingly. Some patients prefer to utilize a variety of organic products, coping methods, and other relaxation techniques instead of benzodiazepines because of the risk of using them. In some offices, your doctor may even flat out refuse to prescribe a benzo. It is vital to be responsible with your medication, and always ensure you keep it in a safe, secure location. If you ever experience any irregular thoughts or feelings while on benzos, contact your doctor immediately and voice your concerns. Never attempt to take yourself off benzodiazepines cold-turkey. It is important to consult with your doctor to create a tapering plan to slowly reduce the amount of medication you are taking until it is safe to completely stop. Quitting your intake of benzodiazepines after consistent use can cause severe withdrawal symptoms and complications, including death.

List of Commonly Prescribed Benzodiazepines:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax) Short half-life (fast-acting)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin) Long half-life (slow-acting & prolonged effects)
  • Diazepam (Valium) Long half-life
  • Lorazepam (Ativan) Medium half-life
  • Oxazepam (Serax) Short half-life
  • Temazepam (Restoril) Medium half-life

* This list is not intended for any legal or personal use, it is merely for reference. Always talk to your doctor if you experience any negative effects or uncomfortable changes in your mood or behavior, never attempt to take your medication doses into your own hands.

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Common Side Effects of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are considered a potentially very addictive drug. They produce a sense of relaxation and calm in the body by affecting the central nervous system. Because of this “body high”, many users can begin to rely on benzodiazepines as a form of dealing with their anxiety and panic attacks, instead of utilizing a form of psychotherapy such as cognitive behavior therapy for long-term help. It is very important that you are aware of the amount of medication you are taking and how your body will react. Start with a small dose and wait until you adjust to the effects before taking a larger dose. Benzodiazepines should NEVER be taken in combination with alcohol, or after you have been drinking as alcohol can SIGNIFICANTLY enhance the effects of benzos, leading to an extremely dangerous situation.  The most commonly experienced side effects include:

  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • Anterograde amnesia
  • Drowsiness
  • “Hangover” effect
  • Unusual changes in brain function & cognition (memory recall, critical thinking, reaction times)
  • Dizziness
  • Physical weakness
  • Lack of muscle coordination (feeling “drunk”)
  • Blurred Vision

If you ever encounter uncomfortable or frightening physical or mental symptoms, consult your doctor immediately to see what other options are available. Mental health medication research is an ongoing task, and innovations in the field are being made every day. If you ever experience suicidal thoughts and have an urge to act on them, consult with your doctor or call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.

Benzos & Children

Benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed to children to help them deal with the immediate effects of anxiety and panic attacks, while a long-term solution is implemented. Many doctors are hesitant to prescribe benzos to children for a variety of reasons. Children’s brains aren’t fully developed, and there isn’t much clear research on the long-term effects of benzodiazepines on children’s brain function and cognitive ability. In addition, the risk of a child becoming addicted to a benzo is a large factor as well. Benzodiazepines are usually not prescribed to children unless there are no other comparable options to help deal with the issues. Used in combination with therapy or another form of treatment, benzodiazepines can greatly help children who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks control their physical and mental sensations until a longer-term solution takes hold.

It is extremely important to monitor your child if they are prescribed benzos, and to schedule regular checkups with your family physician to ensure there are no negative changes occurring as a result of the medication. If you ever notice any kind of irregular behavior or unusual thoughts from a child who is currently prescribed benzodiazepines, it is vital that you consult with your doctor immediately to determine the best course of action. The BC Mental Health & Addiction Services put together a valuable in-depth PDF that goes over benzodiazepine use in children in great detail.

Benzos & Pregnant Women

In general, benzodiazepines should not be used by pregnant women. A combination of various other forms of treatment and therapy should be utilized before benzos are considered. It has been shown that the use of benzodiazepines in the first trimester particularly can contribute to an increased risk of birth defects for your child. The FDA has classified benzodiazepines in categories D & X, which means potential for harming unborn children does exist with these medications.

In some cases, a pregnant woman may have to have benzodiazepines prescribed to treat a variety of issues. In these cases, benzos that have been prescribed longer and have a better safety record are recommended for use, such as Valium (diazepam) or Librium (chlordiazepoxide). As always, if you have any concerns or questions regarding your medication, it is important to consult with your doctor before taking any matters into your own hands. Psych Central provides an excellent article that goes over the use & risks of psychotropic medication in pregnant women.

Beta Blockers

Beta blockers are sometimes prescribed by physicians to help control the physical symptoms caused by anxiety and panic attacks during certain situations. They can be used to help reduce rapid heartbeat, shaking, trembling, excessive sweating, and general tension. Many times, these are given to anxiety sufferers who are required to make presentations or have constant meetings they have to perform in. They are short-term, generally only lasting a few hours, and are used on an as-needed basis.

Beta blockers are normally prescribed for those with high blood pressure or for individuals who have recently suffered a heart attack. They are also given to treat the various symptoms of angina pectoris, which is a common type of chest pain experienced by some. They work by counteracting the effects of adrenaline (epinephrine) in your body, by acting on the beta-adrenergic receptors that are found throughout the entire body, including the heart & nervous system. Beta blockers can be prescribed in pill form or given via injections.

List of Commonly Prescribed Beta Blockers:

  • Propranolol (Inderal)
  • Atenolol (Tenormin)
  • Acebutolol (Sectral)
  • Metoprolol (Lopressor)
  • Nadolol (Corgard)
  • Timolol (Blocadren)

* This list is not intended for any legal or personal use, it is merely for reference. Always talk to your doctor if you experience any negative effects or uncomfortable changes in your mood or behavior, never attempt to take your medication doses into your own hands.

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Common Side Effects of Beta Blockers

Beta blockers are relatively harmless for the most part, and many users don’t encounter any negative side effects. In general, beta blockers are not prescribed for those suffering from asthma because it has a potential to trigger an asthma attack. They are also usually not given to those with pre-existing heart conditions or diabetes. The most commonly experienced side effects of beta blockers include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dry mouth & eyes
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Feelings of coldness in extremities
  • Trouble sleeping

If you ever encounter uncomfortable or frightening physical or mental symptoms, consult your doctor immediately to see what other options are available. Mental health medication research is an ongoing task, and innovations in the field are being made every day. If you ever experience suicidal thoughts and have an urge to act on them, consult with your doctor or call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.

Beta Blockers & Children

Beta blockers are usually prescribed to children for a number of reasons, such as controlling high-blood pressure, rapid heart rate, chest pain, or treating arrhythmias. The two most commonly prescribed beta blockers are Atenolol and Propranolol. The side-effects for beta blockers are the same for adults and children, but if you ever notice any physical symptoms such as a severe headache or allergic reaction (rash, hives, difficulty breathing), call your doctor immediately and seek medical care for your child.

 

Beta Blockers & Pregnant Women

Beta blockers, while not usually recommended, can be prescribed safely to pregnant women. In most cases, a safer, more established beta blocker such as Atenolol or Acebutolol may be given instead of a higher-dosage beta blocker. Research on beta blockers during pregnancy is an on-going effort, so it’s important to always consult and discuss with your doctor your various options and to schedule regular check-ups to ensure your own and your child’s well-being. Mother To Baby, a website dedicated to medications during pregnancy & breastfeeding, has a detailed fact-sheet regarding beta blockers.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) are prescribed significantly less than they used to. MAOIs were some of the first types of antidepressants that were released on the market for use. They have slowly begun to be phased out and different types of antidepressants, such as SSRIs, have started being prescribed over these because of the reduced side effects from newer types of medication. Even though MAOIs aren’t generally prescribed as a first-line of defense against anxiety and panic attacks, they may be given by your doctor when other options have been tried already.

List of Commonly Prescribed MAOIs:

  • Phenelzine (Nardil)
  • Tranylcypromine (Parnate)

*This list is not intended for any legal or personal use, it is merely for reference. Always talk to your doctor if you experience any negative effects or uncomfortable changes in your mood or behavior, never attempt to take your medication doses into your own hands.

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Common Side Effects of MAOIs

MAOIs tend to have more severe and noticeable side effects than other types of antidepressants like SSRIs. This is because they were some of the first antidepressants developed for commercial use. When taking MAOIs, many individuals will have to undergo diet changes because of the complications that may arise from certain foods and ingredients interacting with the medication. Some of the more common side effects of taking MAOIs include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea, diarrhea, & constipation
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Involuntary muscle jerks
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tingling sensation in the skin

If you ever encounter uncomfortable or frightening physical or mental symptoms, consult your doctor immediately to see what other options are available. Mental health medication research is an ongoing task, and innovations in the field are being made every day. If you ever experience suicidal thoughts and have an urge to act on them, consult with your doctor or call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.

MAOIs & Children

While MAOIs have begun to fall out of favor with doctors because of the concerns with their side-effects and possible drug & food interactions, they still may be prescribed to treat anxiety, panic attacks, and depression in children if other types of antidepressants aren’t working. It is important to discuss with your child’s doctor the side effects and risks of your child being prescribed an MAOI, and ensure that your child’s diet is restricted in order to avoid any unforeseen interactions that could cause serious harmful effects. In most cases, MAOIs are discontinued for approximately two weeks before any medication can be taken that may interact with them.

MAOIs & Pregnant Women

MAOIs are considered by the Food & Drug Administration as a “category C” drug, which means there has been no established evidence of safe & effective use in pregnant women. It is noted that, therefore, infant risk can’t be ruled out. In most cases, if pregnant, you should consult with your doctor to seek a different form of medication such as an SSRI or another type of medicine in order to avoid any potential harm to your fetus. Mental health research is an ongoing task, and new studies are published every day on medications being prescribed to individuals. We strive to stay on top of these advancements to ensure you are receiving up-to-date important information.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed medication for a variety of mental disorders including anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. They are a type of antidepressant that works by preventing the re-uptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a chemical messenger of the brain  that is responsible for maintaining mood balance. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression and anxiety, among other things. SSRIs stop the “re-absorption” process of serotonin in your brain. This means that more serotonin begins to build up in your brain, which contributes to an overall more positive mind-set and healthy well-being.

SSRIs are considered to be relatively harmless, and most users who are prescribed SSRIs encounter minor, if any, side effects. They are mainly prescribed as both a long-term or short-term solution for anxiety, often in combination with another form of treatment such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to completely reduce anxiety and stress levels. There are many different brands of SSRIs, each with a different generic and brand name. Some users have experienced negative effects from one brand of SSRI such as increased anxiety or another physical reaction, and switch to a different brand. This is nothing to worry about, as every individual reacts to medication differently.

List of Commonly Prescribed SSRIs:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Vilazodone (Viibryd)

*This list is not intended for any legal or personal use, it is merely for reference. Always talk to your doctor if you experience any negative effects or uncomfortable changes in your mood or behavior, never attempt to take your medication doses into your own hands.

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Common Side Effects of SSRIs

SSRIs are considered a very low-effect drug. They generally take a week or longer to start working and building up in the body, and some users may experience heightened side-effects during this initial “tolerance” phase. The most commonly experienced side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive Yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased Nervousness, Agitation, & Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Sexual Issues (reduced libido or ability to maintain an erection)
  • Headache
  • Blurred Vision

If you ever encounter uncomfortable or frightening physical or mental symptoms, consult your doctor immediately to see what other options are available. There are some studies that state being prescribed SSRIs can contribute to your chance of suicide and amount of suicidal thoughts. While some users do experience a state of being “emotionless” sometimes while on SSRIs, there is no definitive research on the subject. Some researchers believe that this increased chance of suicide comes with being depressed, and nearly all depressed patients are prescribed an SSRI, so it is just coincidence. Mental health medication research is an ongoing task, and advancements and breakthroughs are being made every day. If you ever experience suicidal thoughts and have an urge to act on them, consult with your doctor or call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.

SSRIs & Children

SSRIs are commonly prescribed to children as well. Used in combination with another form of psychological therapy such as CBT, results have been very positive. Even though researchers currently believe SSRIs to be perfectly safe for children, our research and knowledge of antidepressant use in youths is limited, but growing significantly every day. Before being prescribed an antidepressant medication, a child should undergo a thorough physical and mental examination by a certified professional. As always when a child is prescribed medication, strict supervision is necessary to ensure there are no behavior or mood changes. If you notice any irregular actions or thoughts by your child while on an antidepressant, consult with your family physician immediately. The National Institute of Mental Health has also released a very thorough, detailed article describing the use of antidepressants and children.

Tranquilizers

Tranquilizers are sometimes referred to as sedatives or “non-benzodiazepines”. They generally work in the same manner as benzodiazepines, and often include the same risks and side effects. There are a variety of tranquilizers that may be prescribed to an individual “as needed” if regular benzodiazepines aren’t an option, whether for personal or medical reasons. Sleeping pills fall under the category of sedatives as well, and have the potential for addiction & abuse. Many times, sedatives will be prescribed or recommended to an individual who may suffer from insomnia and have sleep quality issues as a result of their anxiety. Of the many types of medications that fall under the tranquilizer and sedative group, one of the more commonly prescribed, and generally regarded as much safer, medications is called Buspirone (Buspar). This drug is known as an “anxiolytic”, rather than a strict tranquilizer, because of its purely anxiety-fighting purposes.

List of Commonly Prescribed Tranquilizers:

  • Buspirone (Buspar) 
  • Zoldipem (Ambien)
  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta)

* This list is not intended for any legal or personal use, it is merely for reference. Always talk to your doctor if you experience any negative effects or uncomfortable changes in your mood or behavior, never attempt to take your medication doses into your own hands.

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Common Side Effects of Tranquilizers

Tranquilizers have a variety of side effects, depending upon the medication and dose. For instance, Buspar is considered one of the safest medications available, and has seen very great results in a large majority of patients. It does not have many commonly experienced side effects, but takes a little longer than other sedatives like sleeping pills to take effect. The most commonly experienced side effects of tranquilizers include:

  • Unusual Drowsiness
  • Excessive Yawning
  • Diarrhea
  • Unusual Nervousness, Agitation, & Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Blurred Vision

If you ever encounter uncomfortable or frightening physical or mental symptoms, consult your doctor immediately to see what other options are available. Mental health medication research is an ongoing task, and advancements and breakthroughs are being made every day. If you ever experience suicidal thoughts and have an urge to act on them, consult with your doctor or call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.

Similar to Benzodiazepines, Non-Benzodiazepine tranquilizers are rarely prescribed to children or pregnant women. It is important to consult with your doctor before beginning any kind of medication treatment. If a doctor recommends a child or pregnant/nursing woman to take these medications, be sure to speak with them thoroughly about any risks and cautions that are associated with the medicine.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants are a set of antidepressant medications that were, in the past, commonly prescribed to treat a variety of issues such as panic attacks, anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bedwetting. They work in a similar manner to SSRIs, by regulating the levels of the two neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin in your brain. They also act by blocking the action of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter as well. In general, doctors and scientists believe that the proper balance of chemicals in the brain is a key to relieving and treating depression, among other issues.

Tricyclic antidepressants aren’t prescribed as much anymore, because of the presence of SSRIs. Tricyclic antidepressants are known to have more severe side effects than SSRIs, and doctors have become more hesistant to prescribe these to patients. More often than not, tricyclic antidepressants are prescribed to a patient if another form of antidepressant has been tried and no results have been shown yet.

List of Commonly Prescribed Tricyclic Antidepressants:

  • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Amoxapine (Asendin)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Doxepin (Sinequan)
  • Desipramine (Norpramin)
  • Imipramine (Tofranil)

*This list is not intended for any legal or personal use, it is merely for reference. Always talk to your doctor if you experience any negative effects or uncomfortable changes in your mood or behavior, never attempt to take your medication doses into your own hands.

Common Side Effects of Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants are not as commonly prescribed anymore because of their more severe side-effects than modern antidepressants like SSRIs. The most commonly experienced side effects include:

  • Blurred Vision
  • Dry Mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Weight Gain (& Loss)
  • Low Blood Pressure When Standing
  • Rashes & Hives
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Increased Risk of Seizures
  • Difficulty Urinating
  • Abnormal Heart Rhythms

If you ever encounter uncomfortable or frightening physical or mental symptoms, consult your doctor immediately to see what other options are available. Mental health medication research is an ongoing task, and advancements and breakthroughs are being made every day. If you ever experience suicidal thoughts and have an urge to act on them, consult with your doctor or call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.

Tricyclic Antidepressants & Children

Tricyclic antidepressants are generally one of the last medications that a doctor will prescribe a child or adolescent, if other antidepressants and treatment options have been tried without positive results. The reason behind this is because in various short-term studies, tricyclic antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children with depression or another psychiatric disorder. It is very important if this medication is prescribed to a child to monitor their behavior and health very closely.

Tricyclic Antidepressants & Pregnant Women

Pregnant women or those who are nursing/breastfeeding should avoid taking tricyclic antidepressants. Modern SSRIs are a much safer alternative to tricyclic antidepressants because of the severe side effects that can occur. Tricyclic antidepressants also interact with a variety of other medications and alcohol in negative ways, which is yet another reason to steer clear.