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Treating an Anxiety Disorder with Medicine

An anxiety disorder can make you feel nervous or fearful without a clear reason. It may happen with depression. Some anxiety disorders can cause intense feelings of fear or panic. You may have physical symptoms. These can include:

  • Racing heartbeat

  • Sweating

  • Dizziness

Treatment for anxiety will likely include therapy (counseling). And medicine may be prescribed to help control your symptoms.

Pharmacist talking to man at pharmacy counter.

How medicine may help

Anti-anxiety medicine can help to control your symptoms. It can help you feel less anxious. You may feel able to move forward with therapy. Your healthcare provider will tell you when and how to use the medicine. It may be for use before situations that make you anxious. Or you may be told to take the medicine on a regular schedule. 

At first, medicines and doses may need to be adjusted to find what works best for you. Try to be patient. Tell your healthcare provider how a medicine makes you feel. This way, you can work together to find the medicine that’s best for you.

Keep in mind that medicines can have side effects. Talk with your provider about any side effects that bother you. Changing the dose or type of medicine may help.

Before you start using a medicine

Before you start taking a medicine for anxiety, ask about:

  • Side effects. Medicines may cause side effects. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what you can expect. They may have tips for easing some side effects.

  • Allergies. Remind your healthcare provider about any allergies you have. Tell them if you've had any problems with medicines in the past

  • Sexual effects. Some medicines can affect your desire for sex. They can affect your ability to have an orgasm. A change in dose or type of medicine may help. If you have a sexual side effect that concerns you, tell your healthcare provider.

  • Addiction concerns. Tell your healthcare provider if you’ve ever had a problem with drugs or alcohol. You may not have a problem with medicines used to treat anxiety disorders. But some medicines for anxiety may not be right for you.

  • Medicine interactions. Ask your pharmacist before using any over-the-counter medicines. This includes vitamins and herbal supplements. Some of these may interact with your anti-anxiety medicine. They may make them work less or be too strong.

When you start using a medicine

Keep in mind:

  • Some medicines must be taken on a schedule. Make this part of your daily routine. For example, take your pill each day before brushing your teeth. A pillbox can help you remember if you’ve taken your medicine each day.

  • Medicines are often taken for 6 to 12 months. Your healthcare provider will then assess if you need to stay on them. If you also had therapy, you may no longer need medicine to manage your anxiety.

  • You may need to stop your medicine slowly. This is to give your body time to adjust. When it’s time to stop, your healthcare provider will tell you more. Never stop your medicine without talking to your provider first.

  • If your symptoms come back, you may need to take medicine again. This isn’t your fault. It’s just the nature of your anxiety disorder.

Medicine safety

  • Don’t change the dose on your own. Don’t stop taking the medicine on your own. That can cause symptoms to come back. It may cause withdrawal symptoms. These can be dangerous.

  • Anti-anxiety medicine may make you feel a little sleepy. You may have trouble focusing. Don’t drive a car or use machinery while on this medicine, until you know how it affects you.

  • Never use alcohol or other drugs with anti-anxiety medicines. This can cause loss of muscle control. You may not be able to be awake or aware. It may lead to coma or death.

  • Use only the amount of medicine prescribed for you. If you took too much medicine, get emergency care right away.

  • Never share your medicines with others. Never use another person’s medicine.

  • Store these medicines in a safe place. Make sure they can't be reached by children or visitors.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Sabrina Felson MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.