Anti-Anxiety Medication and Other Coping Strategies

Anxiety treatments and lifestyle techniques can help you manage symptoms

different people navigating their anxiety

Verywell / Cindy Chung

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If you have persistent anxiety that is impacting your life on a recurrent basis, your symptoms may be caused by an anxiety disorder. Often, anxiety disorders are treatable with medication, counseling, and therapy techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy. There are also a number of lifestyle methods that you can use to reduce your anxiety level.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Anti-anxiety medications have physical effects on the brain and the body, which can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, such as worry, fear, and panic attacks. These medications must be prescribed by a doctor, and often by a psychiatrist.

Anti-anxiety medications are not cures for anxiety disorders, but they can help manage some of the symptoms.

There are a number of different anti-anxiety medications available, and the right medication for you depends on your type of anxiety disorder and whether you have other health problems or take other medications.


Benzodiazepines such as Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam) are sometimes used to treat anxiety for a short-term period.

They are used for generalized anxiety disorder and may be used as a second-line treatment for panic disorder and social anxiety disorder, with antidepressants being the front-line choices.

Benzodiazepines induce muscle relaxation and reduce other symptoms related to anxiety. These medications are not typically used long-term because they can cause addiction.


Beta blockers are used to control heart disease. They help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure by blocking the effects of epinephrine, a stimulant that your body naturally produces. Beta-blockers can help control trembling, sweating, and other physical symptoms of anxiety.

They may be prescribed for the short term when used for anxiety. Sectral (acebutolol), Tenormin (atenolol), Inderal LA (propranolol), are a few beta-blockers. Common side effects include weight gain, fatigue, and cold hands and feet. Beta-blockers are not recommended if you have asthma or diabetes.


BuSpar (buspirone) may be prescribed for long-term treatment of chronic anxiety, and it's recognized as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder. It increases the action of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Buspar takes one to two weeks for initial effects to be felt and can take four to six weeks for the full effect. Because of this, it is not considered effective for the treatment of anxiety attacks, and it must be taken consistently in order to have an effect on symptoms.

It is less sedating than many of the other commonly used anti-anxiety medications, and it is non-addictive and has a low risk of overdose. Possible side effects include dizziness, headache, nervousness, and trouble sleeping.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Often used as a first-line treatment for anxiety disorders, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) include medications like Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline) and Lexapro (escitalopram). SSRIs are considered antidepressants and they increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, which helps improve mood.

Side effects include headaches, dry mouth, drowsiness, sexual dysfunction, diminished sex drive, and weight gain. As with many antidepressants, they can increase the risk of suicidal ideation (thinking about or planning suicide), particularly in children, teenagers, and young adults.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Another common category of medications used for anxiety are the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which are antidepressants, and include medications like Effexor (venlafaxine), Cymbalta (duloxetine), and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine). SNRIs increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine to help boost mood and are similar in effectiveness to SSRIs. Side effects are similar to those of SSRIs.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants are also used in treating anxiety. Common medications in this class are Tofranil (imipramine), Elavil (amitriptyline), Pamelor (nortriptyline) and Anafranil (clomipramine). Side effects may include constipation, dry mouth, blurry vision, a decrease in blood pressure when standing, and urinary retention (decreased ability to urinate).

Use As Directed

All of the anti-anxiety medications have side effects, and they can have serious adverse events if they are overused or used incorrectly. Many of them can affect your heart rate, blood pressure, and level of alertness. They may cause loss of consciousness or even death when used in excessive amounts, in combination with other medications that interact with the central nervous system, or with alcohol or recreational drugs. Many of the antidepressants that are used for anxiety can also induce suicidal ideation.

Supplements for Anxiety

There are no over-the-counter treatments (OTC) for anxiety; however, some people find that OTC options help ease their anxiety symptoms.

It's important to note that the long-term effects of many herbal remedies are not well known, and that the following supplements may interact with other medications and produce undesirable effects. Be sure to talk to a doctor before starting a new supplement.


The extract of ashwagandha is used in pills and usually advertised as helping to reduce anxiety and stress. While some research found ashwagandha reduced depression, stress, and anxiety in a small group of adults, more studies are needed to understand its effects on anxiety in the long term.


L-theanine is an amino acid that is sold in supplement form.

One study found that 200 milligrams per day of L-theanine in healthy adults reduced stress and anxiety and improved sleep quality.

However, more research is needed to understand what dosage is most effective as well as L-theanine's effects on people with chronic anxiety symptoms.

Valerian Root

Valerian root is an herb that is often used in teas or tinctures to reduce anxiety and/or improve sleep quality. However, high doses of valerian root may actually make anxiety symptoms worse. Potential side effects include headaches, nausea, and heart palpitations.


In people who experience anxiety as a result of magnesium deficiency, adding a magnesium supplement may help reduce symptoms.

Lifestyle Strategies

When taking anti-anxiety medications, it also helps to modify your lifestyle in ways that will reduce your anxiety. Here are some ways to address the anxiety in your life.

Speaking With a Professional

A mental health professional can help you treat your symptoms. For instance, in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a trained professional helps you identify the specific coping strategy and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your symptoms.

Although it can be difficult, make sure to be as honest as possible about the symptoms and challenges that you face. Together, you and your mental health professional can work toward developing customized coping strategies.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor's appointment.

Mind Doc Guide

Day-to-Day Examples

In addition, some examples of strategies a professional may encourage you to try may include:

  • Being mindful: There are many ways to bring mindfulness to your day. You might try meditation, journaling, or practicing gratitude—all of which can help reduce anxiety.
  • Cleaning: Keeping your home tidy and well-organized may help improve anxiety levels.
  • Engaging in an activity: Doing a crossword puzzle or sudoku can help take your mind off of negative thoughts and stay present.
  • Exercising: Any kind of physical exercise can help reduce anxiety. You can try dancing, going for a walk, or taking an exercise class.
  • Exploring spirituality: Spending some time exploring your own spirituality (whether or not you're religious) may help reduce anxious and fearful thoughts.
  • Taking time for yourself: Even if you have a busy schedule, it's important to have some down time. You can watch TV, catch up with a friend, or simply do nothing at all.
  • Taking up a hobby: Spending time doing things you enjoy—whether it's painting, cooking, or being in nature—may help improve anxiety and your overall quality of life.

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to recognize and ease anxiety, featuring neuroscientist Dr. Jud Brewer.

Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

A Word From Verywell

If you have anxiety, medication can help because the medications used for anxiety alter the chemicals in your body and brain, reducing symptoms, and often helping you calm down and focus on other things. Other approaches to symptom relief, such as counseling and developing relaxation techniques, can also reduce your anxiety. Often, a combination of approaches is needed to alleviate your symptoms.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Leonard Holmes, PhD
Leonard Holmes, PhD, is a pioneer of the online therapy field and a clinical psychologist specializing in chronic pain and anxiety.