Anxiety disorders cause symptoms that may make daily activities difficult. Medications help alleviate these symptoms, however some types, such as benzodiazepines, may be addictive and are used only on a short-term basis. Other anti-anxiety medications can be used on a long-term basis without the risk of addiction. See your doctor to determine which medication is appropriate to treat your anxiety disorder.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors -- SSRIs -- and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors -- SNRIs -- are the first choice for anxiety medication. SSRIs are particularly effective with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and SNRIs with generalized anxiety disorder. These medications can take 4 to 6 weeks to begin working. Side effects of SSRIs may include insomnia, weight gain and sexual dysfunction, while the side effects of SNRIs may include stomach upset, headaches and sexual dysfunction. Withdrawal can be an issue if the medication is discontinued too quickly.
Buspirone acts as a mild tranquilizer, relieving anxiety by increasing serotonin and decreasing dopamine. This medication may take up to 2 weeks to start relieving anxiety symptoms, compared to 30 to 60 minutes for benzodiazepines. Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone can be used for more than a few weeks. Buspirone is prescribed for people who have generalized anxiety disorder. Side effects of buspirone may include dry mouth, nausea, drowsiness, diarrhea, headaches, constipation, dizziness and upset stomach.
Another non-addictive anxiety medication, beta blockers treat the physical symptoms of anxiety, like a rapid heart rate. These medications are prescribed for people with social phobias who are greatly affected by the physical symptoms of anxiety. Beta blockers do not treat the emotional symptoms of anxiety, and are prescribed off-label. Generic versions of beta blockers that are prescribed for anxiety include propranolol and atenolol. Side effects of beta blockers may include sleepiness, nausea, light-headedness and an unusually slow pulse.