Some of the drugs used to treat anxiety disorders have more than one purpose. It’s important to understand how side effects and the risk of dependency impact the effectiveness of any drug your doctor prescribes before you begin using it. If your healthcare professional wants you to use an anxiety medication, you should also work with a mental health professional to make lifestyle modifications that reduce your need to stay on medication for a long time.  Read on to learn more about drugs for anxiety disorder, how they work and their risk.

Adult man suffering from anxiety disorder concept image for drugs for anxiety.

Physical Symptoms of Addiction 

While some drugs are more addictive than others, it’s always possible to form a dependence on any drug that alters your brain chemistry. It may take 4-6 weeks to experience the full effect of a new medication, so you should record what you’re feeling and report it to your family physician. If you detect the signs of a possible addiction early, weaning yourself from the medication and exploring alternatives to treat your mental health are easier.  

Signs of physical dependence include: 

  • Inability to concentrate prior to taking the medication 
  • Feeling the drug suddenly isn’t effective 
  • Running out of your prescriptions early because you’ve stopped following your doctor’s instructions regarding dose and frequency 
  • Feeling excessively tired or not able to sleep when you’re not using the medication 

Many people don’t tell their doctors when they’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms or feeling dependent on their medications out of shame. The first step to breaking your addiction is to recognize that you need help and ask for it.  

Types of Anxiety Disorders 

There are five types of anxiety disorder, and your treatment options vary based on the diagnosis.  

Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

The best way to describe generalized anxiety disorder is constantly worrying about minor problems in life without logical reason. People with generalized anxiety disorder worry and feel stress but don’t often experience panic attacks or attempt to avoid triggering environments. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder 

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder panic if they can’t continue following a strict set of habits or rituals. The public associates obsessive-compulsive disorder with people who are obsessed with cleanliness because some people with this condition wash their hands frequently and avoid unclean surfaces. Symptoms can vary between people, so your experience could be unique. 

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety occurs when you’re nervous around other people or in public settings. It makes people avoid interacting with others and may lead to more serious mental illnesses. Untreated social anxiety can cause people to isolate themselves because they feel a growing panic whenever they try to make new friends or collaborate with colleagues at work.  

Panic Disorder 

When someone suffers from panic disorder, they experience anxiety attacks when encountering environments, people or objects that trigger their anxiety. Some people understand what triggers their attacks better than others. A panic attack can resemble feeling like you’re having a heart attack, and some people faint or lose consciousness during an anxiety attack.  

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 

Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs when you’ve had physical, emotional or mental trauma and you experience frequent panic attacks or flashbacks when exposed to things that remind you of what happened. Most people associate PTSD with military service or abuse, but you can develop PTSD after any traumatic experience.  

Crop shot of a man suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder cutting grass and measuring it with a ruler.

Treatment Options and Drugs for Anxiety  

Anxiety medications don’t provide immediate relief, and it could take a few weeks to feel their effects. Doctors prescribe anxiety drugs because they can treat symptoms while patients work with a therapist to address the underlying cause of their anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other mental health treatment options are the most effective long-term solutions.  

Depending on your symptoms of anxiety, the severity of your condition and what side effects you can tolerate, your doctor may choose one of the following types of medications to reduce anxiety. 

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

SSRIs are antidepressant drugs that are used to treat some types of anxiety. They include medications such as Zoloft, Prozac and Lexapro and work by increasing serotonin levels in your brain.  


Benzodiazepines are a type of muscle relaxant that can help patients who experience intense panic attacks. Doctors are cautious about prescribing them because they’re more habit-forming than some alternatives. If you’re taking benzodiazepines, you have an increased risk of addiction.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors

MAOIs are a type of antidepressant medication, but doctors prescribe them frequently to treat some forms of anxiety. They work by altering your mood so you don’t worry as much or avoid social situations.  


Tricyclic antidepressants are useful for most types of anxiety, but doctors are less likely to prescribe them due to their side effects. Many people report loss of sexual desire, upset stomach, weight gain, changes in mood and difficulty sleeping when using these medications. 

Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors

SNRIs are typically used to treat depression, but doctors use them for nervous system disorders and anxiety as well. They can cause high blood pressure, liver problems and dependence when they’re not used as a short-term anxiety treatment.  


Beta-blockers are heart medications that can help people suffering from social anxiety or panic disorder. They aren’t meant for long-term use and should only be used in situations that might trigger anxiety.  

When taking anti-anxiety drugs, effects vary from one person to the next. Some people never experience severe side effects or withdrawal symptoms when stopping their medications, while others could develop a substance abuse problem if they remain on their medications too long. 

Doctor discussing the diagnosis and prescription with his patient.

Mental Illness and Addiction Treatment

Many drugs used to treat mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety symptoms and bipolar depression, may create dependency when taken for an extended period. You may notice that you need to take more of your medication to treat your anxiety symptoms, experience severe withdrawal symptoms when you quit taking your medicine or have begun to abuse other drugs.

Camelback Recovery offers treatment options for people who suffer from physical symptoms of anxiety and dependence while taking drugs for anxiety. We can help you explore alternatives for treating anxiety that allow you to live a sober life. Call us today at 602-466-9880 to learn more about the treatment options at our prescription drug rehab in Phoenix, Arizona.