Anti-Anxiety Medications Can Help Calm Nerves

Ways to Relax With and Without Medications

Man walking with dogs.
Exercise can help anxiety. Shutterfly

If you have persistent anxiety that is impacting your life on an everyday basis, you may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are treatable with medication and/or talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy. There are also ways to calm yourself without medication when you feel the effects of anxiety.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Anti-anxiety medications help to calm and relax the anxious person and remove the troubling symptoms, such as panic attacks and extreme worry or fear. They are not cures for anxiety disorders. There are a number of anti-anxiety medications currently available. They must be prescribed by a doctor, often by a psychiatrist. The medication prescribed will depend on your form of anxiety disorder and your individual needs.


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


These medications help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure by blocking the effects of epinephrine. They can help control trembling, sweating, and other physical anxiety symptoms and may be prescribed for a short term while the person gets their symptoms under control. These drugs include Sectral (acebutolol), Tenormin (atenolol), Inderal LA (propranolol), and others. Common side effects include weight gain, fatigue, and having cold hands and feet. They are not recommended for people with 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 has effects on neurotransmitters. It takes days to take full effect, so it must be taken daily. It is less sedating, 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 front-line treatment for anxiety disorders, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) include medications like Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline) and Lexapro (escitalopram). SSRIs increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, which helps improve mood. Side effects include a headache, dry mouth, sleep issues, sexual issues and weight gain, but many of these go away within a couple weeks.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

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

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants are the antidepressants that were first developed, so they can have a whole host of unpleasant side effects. However, they are still sometimes used in treating anxiety particularly because everyone reacts differently to medications. 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 issues.

Ways to Relax Without Medication

With an anxiety disorder, you may be struggling to find additional ways to relax. Here are some great ways to unwind and de-stress.

  • Dance to your favorite song.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Write down exactly what and how you're feeling without thinking about it.
  • Meditate or take several deep breaths.
  • Sit down for five minutes and watch the sunset or sunrise with your favorite beverage.
  • Call a friend or close family member.
  • Start a gratitude journal. It helps you focus on the positive aspects of your life.
  • Plan a day to do nothing and then do it.
  • Take a nap.
  • Indulge in your favorite candy, chocolate, coffee, or sweet.
  • Do a crossword puzzle or sudoku.
  • Watch a comedy or funny online video—anything to make yourself laugh.
  • Pet your dog or cat.
  • Plan a vacation, visualizing the setting.
  • Massage your temples for a few minutes.
  • Chew gum.
  • Stretch out.
  • Try writing a poem or a song.
  • Color, paint, or draw.
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View Article Sources
  • Anxiety Disorders. NIH MedlinePlus. Summer 2015 Issue: Volume 10 Number 2.
  • Mental Health Medications. National Institute of Mental Health.