What is the Best Drug for Anxiety? Top Medications

Anxiety is a common issue that affects many adults in the U.S. every year. Many people deal with this. Some may even feel it so much that it changes their lives. Luckily, there are different medicines to help manage it. This article talks about the top anxiety drugs and how to pick the right one for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Antidepressants, like SSRIs, work well for long-term anxiety issues.
  • Benzodiazepines give quick relief for sudden anxiety but can be risky.
  • Buspirone is another drug that helps with anxiety and is safer than benzodiazepines.
  • CBT and drugs are often used together to treat anxiety disorders.
  • Doing things like exercise and deep breathing can also make you feel better.

Understanding Anxiety Medications

Anxiety affects many people and anxiety medications are key for treatment. These include anti-anxiety drugs and prescription drugs for anxiety. They address chemical imbalances affecting anxiety, thus helping individuals calm down and feel more in control.

The Role of Medication in Anxiety Treatment

Medications help by calming fear signals and fight-or-flight responses in the brain. They make you less nervous and more stable. However, they are best used together with other treatments and lifestyle changes for anxiety.

Types of Anxiety Medications

Different anxiety relief medications work in their ways and offer various benefits. Common types include antidepressants, benzodiazepines, buspirone, antihistamines, and beta-blockers. Your doctor will choose based on your anxiety type, its severity, and your health goals.

Medication ClassExamplesMechanism of ActionPotential Benefits
AntidepressantsSSRIs (Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft), SNRIs (Cymbalta, Effexor), TCAs (Tofranil), MAOIs, Atypical (Remeron)Regulate neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrineEffective for various anxiety disorders, fewer side effects compared to older antidepressants
BenzodiazepinesXanax, Klonopin, ValiumEnhance the effects of the GABA neurotransmitter, producing a calming effectProvide rapid relief for acute anxiety and panic attacks, but carry risk of dependence
Buspirone (BusPar)BuspironeActs on serotonin receptors to reduce anxiety symptomsLower risk of dependence compared to benzodiazepines, can be used long-term
AntihistaminesHydroxyzine (Vistaril)Block histamine receptors in the brain, leading to a calming effectHelpful for mild to moderate anxiety, may be used in combination with other medications
Beta-BlockersPropranololReduce physical symptoms of anxiety like rapid heart rate, trembling, and sweatingEffective for situational or performance-related anxiety, but do not address the underlying psychological component

Antidepressants for Anxiety

Antidepressants help a lot of people with anxiety. They target brain chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine. This helps reduce anxiety symptoms. Some antidepressants are better at handling anxiety than others.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are a top pick for helping with anxiety. Meds like citalopram and sertraline are often used first. They work well and usually cause only a few side effects. SSRIs are the go-to for general anxiety, says a 2022 article.

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Drugs like duloxetine and venlafaxine, known as SNRIs, are good too. They’re often the first choice for anxiety. But, they might not work as well for OCD, as reported by the ADAA.

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

TCAs, including imipramine, can treat both anxiety and depression. But they’re not the top choice because they can have more side effects. They might be tried if other drugs haven’t helped.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

MAOIs are another option. They include drugs like phenelzine. But they need strict diet and drug rules. That’s why they’re not used as often as SSRIs or SNRIs.

Atypical Antidepressants

Some different antidepressants, called atypical, are also used. Mirtazapine is one. They work in their own way. They can help if standard drugs haven’t worked.

Remember, antidepressants don’t work right away. It takes some weeks to see a change. But keep taking them as directed. With time and the right medicine, anxiety can get better.

Benzodiazepines for Anxiety Relief

Benzodiazepines help with anxiety. They focus on a brain chemical called GABA. GABA has a calming effect and slows an overactive brain. This makes benzodiazepines a good choice for treating anxiety.

How Benzodiazepines Work

Benzodiazepines boost the brain’s GABA activity. GABA reduces excitement in the brain, making you feel relaxed. By increasing GABA’s work, benzodiazepines create a calming effect. This is why they are popular for anxiety therapy.

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Potential Risks and Side Effects

Benzodiazepines are effective but have risks. They can cause drowsiness, sedation, and dizziness. Using benzodiazepines for a long time can lead to addiction and dependence. High doses may cause serious issues like amnesia and breathing problems.

BenzodiazepineCommon UsesPotential Risks
Clonazepam (Rivotril)Anxiety, panic disorder, seizuresDrowsiness, dizziness, memory problems, addiction
Alprazolam (Xanax)Anxiety, panic disorder, insomniaSedation, confusion, respiratory depression, dependence
Lorazepam (Ativan)Anxiety, insomnia, alcohol withdrawalImpaired coordination, memory issues, withdrawal symptoms

Always take benzodiazepines as your doctor tells you. This lowers the risk and helps you get the most from them.

BusPar (Buspirone)

If other anxiety meds haven’t worked well, try BusPar (buspirone). It’s different from benzodiazepines. BusPar for anxiety doesn’t make you sleepy or slow. It also doesn’t get you hooked easily. Many people use BusPar if the first meds don’t do the trick.

You should start to feel less anxious in 1 to 2 weeks after taking buspirone. But remember, follow your doctor’s advice about taking it. Stopping suddenly could make your anxiety come back.

Common Side Effects of BuspironeReporting Side Effects
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping

If buspirone for anxiety gives you side effects, let the FDA know. Call 1-800-FDA-1088 to report them.

Keep BusPar below 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) and away from light. Always keep it in a tight spot. If you miss a dose, take it when you remember. But if it’s almost time for your next dose, forget the one you missed.

Buspirone might not mix well with some other meds. Tell your doctor about all the drugs you are on. This includes drugs for mental health, seizures, and antifungal meds.

Antihistamines for Anxiety Management

Antihistamines are mostly for fighting allergies. But, some like Vistaril (hydroxyzine) can also help with anxiety. Hydroxyzine blocks certain brain receptors, making us feel calmer.

Hydroxyzine (Vistaril)

Hydroxyzine helps with anxiety and stress from nervous feelings. It also treats skin allergies like rash and hives.

For adults dealing with anxiety, take 50 to 100 milligrams four times a day. Kids 6 and up can take the same amount daily, but split into several doses.

Older folks might feel confused or sleepy.

Hydroxyzine doesn’t mix well with many drugs, including fluoxetine and sertraline.

Use this medicine as the doctor says. Don’t take too much. Certain health issues can make it risky to use this antihistamine for anxiety.

You can get hydroxyzine in tablets, syrup, and capsules. GoodRx offers big savings on Vistaril at some drug stores. This can help for managing anxiety without spending too much.

Typical Adult Dosage for AnxietyPediatric Dosage (6 years and older)
50 mg to 100 mg four times daily as needed50 mg daily in divided doses

Hydroxyzine starts to work in about 30 minutes, with the best effects after 2 hours. It can make you feel sleepy, and might cause some other troubles like a dry mouth or eyes. Big problems like heart changes or bad skin reactions are rare.

Hydroxyzine is not addictive or a risky drug. But, it might increase sleepiness or those heart troubles when used with some other drugs. Always talk to a doctor before beginning any antihistamines for anxiety.

Beta-Blockers for Situational Anxiety

Beta-blockers are usually for heart issues and chest pain. But they also help with anxiety’s physical signs. They stop adrenaline’s effects, easing symptoms like fast heartbeats and sweating.

Examples of Beta-Blockers for Anxiety

The top beta-blockers for anxiety are propranolol and atenolol. A study in 2016 showed propranolol works for short-term anxiety. Yet, they might not help much with long-term anxiety or social phobias.

Beta-blockers can cause fatigue, cold hands, headaches, and dizziness. Serious issues are rare but include slow heartbeat and low blood sugar. People with asthma or low blood pressure should steer clear of them.

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Beta-blockers are still liked for managing anxiety’s body signs, especially in public talks or performances. About 30 million Americans take them, showing their big use.

what is the best drug for anxiety

Finding the right anxiety medicine is not simple. You have lots of choices. A good plan depends on what you need, your symptoms, and what you like. Talk a lot with a doctor to pick a medicine that works well and has few side effects.

Determining the Right Anxiety Medication

There isn’t just one best anxiety medicine for everyone. What works well for you might not work for someone else. Your doctor looks at your health, what’s happened before, and your life now to pick the best medicine.

Your doctor will think about how bad your anxiety is, any other health problems, what a medicine might do, and your life. They might also ask what kind of medicine you like, if you have a choice, and if you’re worried about getting too used to it.

Consulting a Mental Health Professional

Talking to a mental health care expert is key. It could be a doctor that focuses on the mind or a nurse who helps with medicine. They will check you carefully, understand what’s going on, and plan out what’s best for you.

Tell your health expert everything about how you feel and what you want. The more they know, the better they can help you find a medicine and plan that really work for you.

Managing and Monitoring Anxiety Medications

When you get anxiety medicine, following your doctor’s advice is very important. Take it every day at the same time. Doing this helps stop your anxiety from getting worse.

Following Prescription Instructions

It’s key to stick to the right dose and timing for your anxiety meds. Always take the meds the right way, whether it’s daily, twice daily, or with food. If you miss a dose, don’t change the dose on your own. Ask your doctor first. Changing your dose by yourself can cause problems or even withdrawal signs.

Tracking Side Effects and Adjustments

Keep an eye on how the medicine affects you. If you feel sick, have a dry mouth, or any issues with sex, tell your doctor. They might need to change your dose or give you a different medicine. Watch for changes in how you feel, your sleep, or how you’re doing. These might show that your medicine needs a tweak.

Working with your healthcare team is key in handling your meds. Do as your doctor says and share how the medicine is affecting you. This way, you can figure out the best plan to lower your anxiety. This will make your life better.

Choosing the Right Anxiety Medication

Choosing the right anxiety medication is very personal. Different people may respond differently to meds. This is based on their health history and what they prefer. It’s key to work closely with your doctor. Together, you can make a personalized treatment plan that meets your needs.

Personalized Treatment Plans

Your doctor looks at many things to pick the best anxiety medication for you. This includes the kind and how serious your anxiety is, if you have other health problems, and your health and life in general. They’ll also think about what you want. For example, if you’re open to trying certain meds or what you think about side effects.

By working together, you can make a plan that’s just for you. This plan will help find the anxiety medication that works best and is easy for you to take.

Open Communication with Your Clinician

Talking openly with your doctor is super important. Make sure to share any worries or questions you have. These may be about side effects, when the meds start working, or what if the first meds don’t help.

By sharing, your doctor can figure out how to help better. They might change your dose, try a new med, or add more ways to help, like new therapies or lifestyle changes.

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Lifestyle Modifications for Anxiety Management

Research says working on lifestyle can lower anxiety, besides meds. These changes help with mental health and make treatment more effective.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Exercise for anxiety is great. Activities like aerobics, strength training, or yoga release feel-good endorphins. They boost your mood and make you feel better.

A daily brisk walk can do wonders for your anxiety.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Using deep breathing exercises for anxiety is a strong tool. It calms body and mind. Deep breaths activate the “rest and digest” system. This fights stress that comes with anxiety.

Progressive Relaxation Techniques

Progressive relaxation for anxiety eases muscle tension. It involves tightening and then relaxing muscles. This makes the body calm down. It’s great for those who feel tense due to anxiety.

Relaxing Visualization

Relaxing visualization for anxiety is powerful. It helps you feel calm. Imagine a peaceful place, like a quiet beach or lush forest. Focus on the sights and sounds to take your mind off anxious thoughts.

Add these changes to your anxiety plan. They make you more hands-on with your mental health. They work well with medication and therapy.

Remember, the right mix of strategies is key. Find what suits you best.


Finding the best way to manage anxiety is different for everyone. There are many types of meds, like antidepressants and beta-blockers. The choice depends on your diagnosis, health, and what you prefer. It’s key to team up with your doctor to pick the best plan.

Anxiety care might mix meds and changes in how you live. These changes can include regular exercise and special ways to relax. Being active in your care and keeping in touch with your doctor are crucial. Together, you can strike the perfect balance to handle anxiety well and enjoy life again. This conclusion shows how important it is to work together with your healthcare provider on this. It collects the key points we talked about.

The right anxiety medicine is the one that suits you, along with other helpful steps. By looking into different choices and chatting with your expert, you can move forward. You’re taking a big step towards a life that’s more fulfilled and less troubled by anxiety.


What are the different types of anxiety medications?

There are several types of anxiety medications. This includes antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and BusPar. Also, antihistamines and beta-blockers are used. Each type helps in its own way to control anxiety.

How do antidepressants help treat anxiety?

Antidepressants, such as SSRIs and SNRIs, are often the first to treat anxiety. They change brain chemicals to calm you down. This easing of stress can reduce anxiety feelings.

What are the benefits and risks of benzodiazepines for anxiety?

Benzodiazepines act fast to make you feel calm. They tackle the GABA system. But they can lead to needing them more and hard to stop taking. Most doctors only prescribe them for a short time or as needed.

How does BusPar (buspirone) differ from other anxiety medications?

BusPar is unlike other anti-anxiety drugs because it doesn’t make you sleepy or foggy. It’s less likely to make you want it all the time than benzodiazepines. If other drugs haven’t worked, BusPar may be tried next.

Can antihistamines and beta-blockers be used to treat anxiety?

Yes, certain antihistamines help with anxiety, like hydroxyzine (Vistaril). Beta-blockers are for the heart, but they can calm the body’s anxiety signs. This includes a fast heartbeat.

How can I determine the best anxiety medication for me?

Finding the best anxiety medicine is different for everyone. You work with a doctor to think about your health and what you want. They help choose what will work best for you.

What lifestyle changes can help manage anxiety in addition to medication?

Things like moving more, breathing deeply, and picturing calming images can help with medication. They can make your anxiety treatment even better.