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The Best Anxiety Meds

author image Michelle Bolyn
Michelle Bolyn is a licensed mental health professional and has worked since 2006 as a therapist. Bolyn has been writing mental health, wedding-related and relationship focused articles since 2007. She is published on and Bolyn received her master's degree in social work from New York University.
The Best Anxiety Meds
Pills spilling out of bottle. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

To choose the best anxiety medication for yourself, you need to know what type of anxiety disorder you have. Some anxiety medications start working within 30 minutes and might be a good fit for someone diagnosed with panic disorder. Others can take weeks to take full effect but are less addictive and might work well with someone diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Discuss your diagnosis with your therapist before trying to choose an anxiety medication.

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Antidepressants were developed to help treat people diagnosed with depression; however, researchers have found that they can help people diagnosed with anxiety as well. They work to change the chemical imbalances in a person’s brain that affect anxiety levels. Many doctors choose to prescribe antidepressants over benzodiazepines, because they seem to be less habit-forming and addictive. If someone needs anxiety medication over a longer period of time, antidepressants are the best fit.

The drawback of antidepressants is that they take two to three weeks to build up in a person’s system to really be beneficial. If someone is struggling with severe anxiety, this medication wouldn’t help that person for a while. Some common antidepressants that doctors prescribe for anxiety include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), escitalopram (Lexapro) and venlafaxine (Effexor). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, antidepressants can cause side effects such as headaches and nausea within the first few days, drowsiness, feeling jittery and sexual issues.


Doctors prescribe benzodiazepines for short-term help with anxiety. If someone is suffering from panic attacks or severe anxiety, benzodiazepines might be the best option. They are fast-acting and can start to relieve symptoms of anxiety within 30 minutes.

Most doctors won’t prescribe benzodiazepines long-term or if they can prescribe other types of medication such as antidepressants, because many benzodiazepines have been found to be habit-forming and addicting. It can be hard for someone to stop relying on these drugs. Some common benzodiazepines include clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax). These drugs can cause other side effects, such as upset stomach, blurred vision and headaches.

A newer anti-anxiety medication that usually gets categorized separately is buspirone (BuSpar). It’s different from other anti-anxiety medication, because it takes about two weeks to take full effect, like many anti-depressants. Doctors use this medication to treat generalized anxiety disorder. According to, this medicine has several advantages over other anti-anxiety medications, as it’s not as addicting, it doesn’t impair one’s memory and coordination and it doesn’t make you as drowsy.


When you suffer from anxiety, you also have physical symptoms, such as sweating and trembling, that can be embarrassing and increase your level of anxiety. To deal with these physical symptoms, some doctors prescribe beta-blockers. If you have an important lecture to give or have an interview for a new job, you could talk to your doctor about using beta-blockers short-term.

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