Anxiety is a quite normal response by humans to certain situations that may be stressful or dangerous. It often increases the level of caution and awareness to the immediate environment or setting.
Most everyone will experience anxiety at one stage or the other for different reasons. This feeling does not last long for the majority of people, but for millions of people, this is not the case as they have to deal with different forms of anxiety disorders.
Over 40 million American adults have been diagnosed with various forms of anxiety disorder and other psychological conditions.
What are anxiety medications and how do they work?
Anxiety disorders occur when there is an imbalance of some chemicals in the brain like neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA. These chemicals influence a person’s state of mind, well-being and how relaxed he is at any given time.
The treatment of anxiety disorders commonly involves the use of multiple types of drugs such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications (also known as anxiolytics), and beta-blockers.
The main function of the antidepressants and the anxiolytic medications is to effectively balance some specific chemicals in the brain known generally as neurotransmitters. The beta-blockers and other forms of anxiety medications are primarily used to treat the symptoms that usually accompany an anxiety attack.
What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety disorders present themselves in several ways, and the symptoms usually differ in some extreme cases. However, the body reacts to anxiety in some specific ways because an anxious person is always on high alert, trying to identify any potential threat or danger. The flight or fight responses common to everybody kicks in. Below is a list of some of the common signs and symptoms of anxiety;
- An urge to avoid anxiety triggers
- Feeling nervous and restlessness
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Having trouble dealing with other issues other than what makes you anxious
- Having digestive or gastrointestinal problems like gas, constipation, or diarrhea
- Increased sweating
- Feelings of panic, danger, or dread
- Performing certain behaviors over and over again
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing, or hyperventilation
- Trembling or muscle twitching
- Weakness and lethargy
A panic attack is the sudden occurrence of fear or distress which usually peaks within minutes is defined by some of the symptoms below;
- Chest pains
- Choking sensation
- Dizziness, light-headedness, or feeling faint
- Feeling of detachment from oneself or reality, known as depersonalization and derealization
- Fear of losing control or ‘going crazy’
- Fear of dying
- Feeling hot or cold
- Numbness or tingling sensations (paresthesia)
- Nausea or gastrointestinal problem
- Prescription Medications For Anxiety
- Shaking or trembling
- Shortness of breath or feeling like you are being smothered
Some anti-anxiety medications
While most anti-anxiety drugs are used to effectively treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders and panic attacks it should be noted that they are not cures, but simply a means to manage the condition. The anti-anxiety medications prescribed by medical professionals usually depends on the specific kind of anxiety disorder. They include;
Drugs like Ativan (lorazepam) Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam) fall into this category and usually causes relaxation when taken. They are used to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and social anxiety disorders.
These medications (acebutolol, atenolol, propranolol) generally block the effects of epinephrine by reducing the heart rate and blood pressure. They are prescribed for use on a short-term basis and usually reduce physical anxiety symptoms like sweating and trembling.
This medication BuSpar (buspirone) is prescribed for long-term use to treat anxiety disorders. It usually takes days before its effect is felt and must be taken daily. It is less addictive and less sedative.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Prescription medications like Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline) and Lexapro (escitalopram) and many others are all in this category. Like the name implies, SSRIs boost the amount of serotonin in the brain which improves mood.
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
The serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) include medications like Effexor (venlafaxine), Cymbalta (duloxetine), and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) which also increases the level of serotonin and norepinephrine top improve mood.
Tricyclic antidepressants include Tofranil (imipramine), Elavil (amitriptyline), Pamelor (nortriptyline) and Anafranil (clomipramine) and still considerably more effective in treating anxiety.