Anti-Anxiety Medications for Panic Disorder

FAQs on Anti-Anxiety Medications

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Anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed to treat panic disorder.. Photo © Microsoft

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by fear, anxiety, and persistent panic attacks. Even though these symptoms can be difficult to cope with, there are many available treatment options for panic disorder. Prescribed medication has become one of the most popular treatments to assist in managing the symptoms of panic disorder. Anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed to treat anxiety-related conditions, including panic disorder.

What are Anti-Anxiety Medications?

Anti-anxiety medications are commonly prescribed to help alleviate anxiety and enhance feelings of calm. Anti-anxiety medications can assist in the management of several mental health and medical conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), phobias, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder (SAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety associated with depression and bipolar disorder, alcohol withdrawal, sleep disturbances, seizures, and muscle pain and spasms.

Benzodiazepines are one of the most common classes of anti-anxiety medications. Often referred to as sedatives or tranquilizers, benzodiazepines can have a calming and relaxing effect. These medications are often preferred to older types of anti-anxiety medications, as benzodiazepines have been found to be safe and effective with limited side effects.

Some of the most popular benzodiazepines include Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam).  

What are the Side Effects of Anti-Anxiety Medications?

There are numerous side effects associated with the use of anti-anxiety medications. Some of the most typical side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased alertness, concentration and other cognitive effects

These side effects should gradually decrease and become more manageable over time. Talk to your prescribing doctor if side effects worsen or become bothersome.

Anti-anxiety medications are considered controlled substances and can therefore be abused. Your prescribing doctor will take steps to help prevent any potential withdrawal and addiction issues. Never abruptly discontinue taking anti-anxiety medications on your own. Your doctor can assist you in gradually and safely discontinuing your medication.

How Do Anti-Anxiety Medications Work to Treat Panic Disorder?

Anti-anxiety medications work to rapidly elicit feelings of calm and relaxation. These medications can help lessen the intensity of anxiety and panic attacks. These effects occur due to the medications ability to impact neurotransmitters located in the brain.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that play a role in various functions of the body.

Anti-anxiety medications affect the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, neurotransmitters that regulate sleep, anxiety, feelings of relaxation, and other functions. Anti-anxiety medications help stabilize GABA receptors and slow the central nervous system (CNS), which will reduce anxiety and the strength of other symptoms of panic disorder.

Are There Any Precautions to Taking Anti-Anxiety Medications?

There are some precautions to consider when taking anti-anxiety medications.

Pregnancy and Nursing: Anti-anxiety medications can be passed on to children during pregnancy or while nursing. If you are pregnant or nursing, consult you prescribing doctor about these potential risks.

Drug Interactions: Anti-anxiety medications should not be taken with certain medications. Always let your prescribing doctor know about any other prescribed or over-the-counter medications you are taking. 

Alcohol: Anti-anxiety medications depress the central nervous system (CNS). Consuming alcohol can have a similar impact on the CNS, which can have adverse effects when consumed with anti-anxiety medications. Alcohol consumption should be avoided while taking anti-anxiety medications.

Medical History: Anti-anxiety medications may not be right for you if you have a history of certain medical and mental health conditions. In particular, if you have a history of liver disease, alcohol or drug addiction, depression, or glaucoma, anti-anxiety medications may not be suited for you. Always discuss your medical history with your prescribing doctor. 


Batelaan, N. M., Van BalkomStein, A. J., and Stein, D. (2012). Evidence-based Pharmacotherapy of Panic Disorder: An Update. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 15, 403-415.

Hoffman, E. J. & Mathew, S. J. (2008). Anxiety Disorders: A Comprehensive Review of Pharmacotherapies. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 75, 248–262.

Silverman, Harold M. (2010). The Pill Book. 14th ed. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

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