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Anti-Anxiety Medications


Updated May 28, 2014

Anti-anxiety medications help to calm and relax the anxious person and remove the troubling symptoms. There are a number of anti-anxiety medications currently available. The preferred medications for most anxiety disorders are the benzodiazepines such as Valium, Xanax/Zanex, and Ativan. In addition to the benzodiazepines other medications such as buspirone, beta blockers, and gabapentin are sometimes also used to treat anxiety. Antidepressants, particularly the SSRI antidepressants, are increasingly used first line for a variety of anxiety disorders. They are also sometimes used for more generalized forms of anxiety, especially when it is accompanied by depression. The medications approved by the FDA for use in OCD are all antidepressants: clomipramine, fluoxetine, and fluvoxamine.

Although benzodiazepines, buspirone, tricyclic antidepressants, or SSRIs are the preferred medications for most anxiety disorders, occasionally, for specific reasons, one of the following medications may be prescribed: antipsychotic medications, antihistamines (such as Atarax, Vistaril, and others), and beta-blockers such as propranolol (Inderal, Inderide). Today, atypical antipsychotics (such as Seroquel), anticonvulsants (such as Neurontin) may also be prescribed for anxiety. Propanediols such as meprobamate (Equanil) were commonly prescribed prior to the introduction of the benzodiazepines, but today rarely are used. Likewise, barbiturates such as phenobarbital are usually no longer prescribed for anxiety disorders.

For more information:

NIH Publication No. 95-3929

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