CASA of Arizona

Anxiety Disorders - pg. 5

Drug Therapy



Benzodiazepines - This class of drugs react quickly in the body and are good anti-anxiety medicines. Different drugs in this class work well for treating social phobia, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This class of drugs does not work well for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The drugs cannot eliminate the symptoms of these two disorders. Benzodiazepines can be prescribed at different strengths to allow a longer duration of their effects. Problems associated with benzodiazepines are that they are habit-forming and patients can develop a tolerance to them. Due to the addictive nature of the drugs, they are not recommended for patients with other drug abuse issues.

Azipirones - Azipirones are a newer class of anti-anxiety drugs. They work very well at treating GAD but do not function well for treating panic disorders, OCD, or PTSD. Azipirones are less habit-forming than Benzodiazepines but require several weeks of consistent medication to function therapeutically. Possible side effects are dizziness, nausea, and headaches.

Antidepressants - Most antidepressant medications have substantial anti-anxiety and anti-panic effects in addition to their antidepressant action. A large number of antidepressants also have anti-obsession effects. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) have been used for a long time as antidepressants and actually helped doctors to differentiate between different types of anxiety disorders. TCAs have side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, weight gain, and dizziness. Due to these effects most doctors now prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to their patients. SSRIs have been shown effective against all types of anxiety disorders. Their dosage also starts out low and can be increased until the patient's individual level is determined. SSRIs have some possible side effects but these tend to be fewer than TCAs. TCAs are still in use because some patients who do not respond to SSRIs will respond well to TCAs.

It is important to note that if a patient is suffering from side effects of their medication, they need to discuss the effects with the doctor. The doctor can try switching the patient to a different medication. Individual patients will respond differently to the various medications available.

Beta-blockers - Beta-blockers are used to treat heart conditions but they have also been found to be helpful in treating some forms of anxiety disorder, particularly social phobia. Prior to a patient encountering a known anxious situation, a beta-blocker can be taken to alleviate some of the physical symptoms that would occur. Beta-blockers can help prevent the heart from racing, the resulting trembling in the limbs, and other associated affects.


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