person holding anxiety pill in hand

7 Best Anxiety Medications Available By Prescription

Effective treatment of anxiety disorders involves a multi-faceted approach, combining medication, therapy, diet, exercise, and sleep. With various medications available, including SSRIs and SNRIs, doctors tailor treatment to each individual’s needs. It’s crucial to work with a medical professional to identify the right medication and dosage, and to monitor for any side effects or changes in health.

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Every anxiety disorder has different medications that may be best suited. Additionally, every individual may react differently to medications. While working out what the best medication and dose could be for each individual can take some testing, doctors are well-suited to help identify the best options for their patients based on a variety of different factors. Here are a number of considerations that doctors will evaluate before making a prescription selection.

However, even before selecting a prescription, doctors usually recommend a multi-pronged approach to having effective anxiety treatment. These include medication, therapy, diet, exercise, and sleep. Balancing all of these factors allows your mind and body to be in a position to receive help and function optimally. Eliminating any of these factors can make it more difficult for all of the others to help you cope with anxiety.

With that in mind, here are some of the most effective medications that are currently on the market to help treat anxiety.

person holding anxiety pill in hand

Please note that this information is informational and may not be appropriate for your unique case. If you have anxiety, working with a medical professional to identify your treatment options is critical.

Understanding the Different Treatment Options

There are a variety of different medication options that are on the market to help treat anxiety and depression. The mechanisms that these medications use to work can vary greatly. So, before we dive into the best types of medicines that are on the market, it is essential to understand some of the different categories and ways in which they work. The basic types of medications are broken into five commonly recognized categories.

  • Antidepressants
  • Beta Blockers
  • Buspirone
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Hydroxyzine

Each of these categories has a number of medications and subgroups. Each of these approaches has significant benefits and drawbacks that make it more or less appropriate for each person.

While each of these categories can be helpful in the treatment of anxiety, antidepressants are prescribed far more than the other options. For these reasons, we wanted to focus on this specific category of medications to help you understand your options.

If you find that these medications are not a good fit for you, it is crucial to speak with your doctor or medical professional about the other options available to you. There are many different solutions to treating anxiety, and individuals who advocate for their needs to be met can find help.


Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed type of medication to treat anxiety. The most popular subgroup of antidepressants is widely called SSRIs, which stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Serotonin is commonly considered the hormone that is responsible for making us feel happy.

Researchers believe that anxiety and depression can sometimes be linked to the increased absorption of serotonin in the body, which leaves individuals feeling less happy than they otherwise would. This category of medications works by binding to the places where serotonin would generally be processed. When these enzymes are busy working to break down the drug, it allows natural serotonin to stay in the body longer, leaving individuals feeling better. However, it isn’t entirely clear to the medical community how these medications impact anxiety, but they have significant positive impacts on the treatment of anxiety.

SSRIs typically take between four to six weeks to be fully effective. However, in contrast to other medication types like benzodiazepines, SSRIs are not addictive, but there can be significant side effects if the medication is suddenly stopped.

Types of Antidepressants

While SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed medications, there are other types of medicines that fall under this grouping. A different kind of medication is called an SNRI. This acronym stands for serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.

Some of the most common SSRIs that are available on the market today are:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

Some of the most common types of SNRIs are:

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

Each of these medications has a specific use and guidelines that may impact its effectiveness for patients. Work closely with your doctor to determine which medication might be for you.

Identifying Which Medication is Right for You

If you aren’t sure which medication could be a fit for you or a loved one, having a basic understanding of each medication, its parameters, and some of the side effects is an excellent approach to working with your doctor to determine the appropriate treatment options. Let’s look at each of the previously mentioned antidepressants to identify which option could be a fit for you.

Citalopram (also called Celexa) is one of the most commonly prescribed (and effective) treatment options for anxiety. One of the most significant benefits of citalopram is that it tends to have fewer side effects than its older SSRI predecessors. This medication typically begins to work within two weeks, with the full effects realized around four to six weeks. Citalopram should not be quit immediately and only under the direction of a medical provider. If the choice to stop taking the medication is made, it typically requires slowly lowering the dose before discontinuation.
This medication is
approved for individuals 12 years and older. If you have diabetes, citalopram may interfere with your ability to regulate blood sugar. Additionally, individuals suffering from glaucoma should not take citalopram as it can increase the pressure in the eyes.

There are a number of common side effects associated with citalopram. These include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

While these symptoms are typically considered mild, there are some additional side effects that require medical care. These are:

  • Changes in menstrual cycles or levels of bleeding
  • Weight gain or loss without trying

If you experience any of these side effects while taking citalopram, it is critical to receive immediate medical care.

  • Bleeding from the gums or bruises that grow larger
  • Overwhelming or powerful positive feelings
  • Restlessness or the inability to sit still
  • Coughing up blood
  • Blood in the urine
  • Blood in the stool or vomiting with blood as these can be signs of bleeding from the intestinal tract

Escitalopram goes under the brand name Lexapro and is another medication under the SSRI antidepressant umbrella. This medication is commonly prescribed for individuals who are experiencing anxiety, depression, OCD, or panic attacks. Escitalopram, like citalopram, is another medication that has fewer side effects than its older predecessors. Escitalopram is thought to help increase the levels of serotonin in your brain to help regulate moods.

This medication typically takes full effect in four to six weeks and should not be suddenly stopped. If the decision is made to discontinue this medication, it should be done under medical supervision, and it is likely that your doctor will gradually decrease your dose. There are some people who found that this medication made them feel dizzy or disoriented, so doctors recommend that you don’t drive or operate heavy machinery for the first few days of your treatment until you know how you will be impacted.

Escitalopram is designed for adults aged 18 and older. If you have diabetes, it may make it harder to regulate blood sugar for the first few weeks of treatment.

Some of the ordinary but minor side effects of escitalopram include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue

Some of the more severe side effects should be reported to your medical professional. These include:

  • Changes in your menstrual cycle, such as increased bleeding or spotting.
  • Weight gain or loss without trying

If you experience any of these side effects, it is essential to seek medical treatment immediately:

  • Constant headaches or lasting confusion
  • Frequent muscle cramps
  • Coughing blood
  • High temperature with agitation or disorientation
  • Blood in the stool or vomit

Fluoxetine is also commonly referred to as Prozac. This medication has been one of the longest-standing antidepressants in the SSRI category. This medication’s on-label use is for the treatment of depression, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), and bulimia. It works by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain.

Similar to the other SSRIs, fluoxetine takes around four to six weeks for the full effects to be realized. Fluoxetine does not change or mask your moods but instead is designed to help make you feel more like yourself.

Fluoxetine is available in children eight and over, which makes it one of the most prescribed medications for children and adolescents.

There are a variety of common side effects associated with fluoxetine that are similar to the other SSRIs. However, the severe side effects that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Overwhelming happiness or restlessness
  • Blood in the stool or vomit
  • Coughing up blood
  • Blood in the urine
  • Bleeding from the gums or bruises that appear to grow

Paroxetine, or the brand name Paxil, is another widely available SSRI. This medication is approved for use in adults 18 years and older for the treatment of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This medication also takes approximately four to six weeks to reach its full potential.

This medication may not be a good fit for individuals who have epilepsy, existing heart problems, glaucoma, or are trying to become pregnant.

The side effects of paroxetine are nearly identical to the other SSRIs already listed, but you should also seek immediate medical care if you notice blurry vision, as this may indicate a life-threatening condition.

The fifth medication on our list is the final SSRI that we’ll discuss. This medication’s brand name is called Zoloft. Sertraline is used to treat depression, panic attacks, OCD, and PTSD as on-label uses. However, sertraline is also commonly used to help treat anxiety. However, sertraline has a variety of side effects, and while less than medications that are considered older, it still has more than the previously mentioned medications. These additional side effects include:

  • Impacts on appetite making you more or less hungry
  • Common impacts to sleep and headaches that usually decrease after a few weeks

Additionally, if you are taking sertraline, you should not drink grapefruit juice as it may increase the levels of sertraline in your body and enhance potential side effects.

Sertraline is designed for individuals between 6 and 17 years old only for OCD and in adults for its other intended uses.

The other side effects of this medication are the same as previously listed for other SSRIs.

Duloxetine is the first of our SNRI medications to make the list. The brand name for this medication is called Cymbalta. The medicines under the SNRI category are thought to work because they increase the amount of serotonin and noradrenaline in your brain. This medication is used to treat depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and women’s urinary incontinence.

When using this medication for anxiety or depression, the full effects are usually noticeable between two and four weeks after beginning your treatment. Duloxetine is approved for use in individuals 18 years and older.

The list of common side effects for SNRI medications is typically longer than the SSRI category. They include:

  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Lowered appetite
  • Decreased sex drive or libido
  • Difficulty keeping an erection or reaching orgasm

The severe side effects remain the same as the SSRI medications but also include watching for issues with liver function. This is frequently recognized by the yellowing of the eyes.

Venlafaxine, called by its brand name Effexor, is the final medication in our top 7 list of prescription medications used to treat anxiety. This medicine is used to treat depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Individuals who are 18 years and older can be prescribed venlafaxine, but it should not be used by individuals with irregular heart conditions, glaucoma, women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, or those who have epilepsy.
The side effects of venlafaxine are:

  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation

Additionally, some of the severe side effects include:

  • Concerns about liver function (yellowing of the eyes)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

Finding the Right Solutions for Your Anxiety

While these are some of the most frequently prescribed medications for anxiety and have high rates of success for the treatment of anxiety and associated mental health diagnoses, there are still a variety of other options available on the market. If you have been diagnosed or believe that you have anxiety, it is vital to work with mental health or other medical professionals to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Once you have been prescribed and begin taking medication, it continues to be essential to monitor your physical and mental health for any changes and remain in contact with your healthcare provider to ensure that your medications work for you. If you have any questions or concerns, it is essential to talk about them with your doctor.

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