3 Types of Anxiety Medications That Work Fast

anxiety, blog

When it comes to curing abnormal anxiety you have to keep your head on a swivel; always on the lookout for a permanent solution to your problem.

How you do this will vary but an important part of healing, regardless of the method, is managing the physical symptoms of anxiety.

The reality is that it’s difficult to make progress when your body is under constant assault by chest pain, palpitations and other symptoms.

Anxiety symptoms breed terror and ferocious mental unrest making it hard to do anything much less get better.

I always tell people and firmly believe that the key to stopping anxiety is confronting anxious thoughts.

But how are you supposed to confront your thoughts when you can’t even be sure that you’re going to survive?

If you are consumed with fear or lost in rumination you will remain immobilized and held hostage by rotten ideas and aimless worry.

Okay, cool, so anxiety symptoms are bad. What can you do about it?

One of the most effective ways to calm the body during a bout of acute anxiety is through the use of fast acting anxiety medication.

Now I don’t want you to think that medications are a flawless solution because they are not. They are, however, a powerful tool that should not be ignored.

Especially because certain medications can bring relief within 30 minutes preventing a downward spiral into a world of false beliefs and perturbed navel-gazing.

Remember that anxiety medications can be taken on an as needed basis which does not require a lifelong commitment to big pharma.

And although medication represents only one part of the recovery process it should always be considered when making an honest effort to get better.

Here’s the menu:

Benzodiazepines: A Swift Kick to Bad Nerves

Perhaps the most powerful, and tricky, type of fast acting anxiety medications are known as benzodiazepines, or benzos for short. These medications relax the body by slowing nerve impulses.

They work well but have been linked to a high incidence of dependence and abuse; especially when they are used for more than 6 months.

This means that if you select a benzo you should exercise caution by working closely with your doctor to prevent physical dependence.

There’s also a tendency for these drugs to cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop using them abruptly. However, if benzos are used only as needed you’re less likely to develop problems with withdrawal.

For all their drawbacks though benzos do have an upside. They offer a rapid means of stopping acute anxiety symptoms which is both practical and reassuring. Even the act of carrying these babies in your pocket could ward off a panic attack.

That matters because when people get locked into long battles with anxiety they tend to develop negative thinking patterns that dog them for years.

Benzos are not a panacea but they can stop unnecessary suffering while you seek a long-term solution.

Examples of Benzodiazepines:

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Klonipin (clonazepam)
  • Valium (deazepam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Halcion (triazolam)

Adrenaline Cork

Beta-blockers are common medications with a variety of uses; chief among them is the control of high blood pressure, chest pain and migraine headaches.

Beta-blockers help to block epinephrine and norepinephrine at adrenergic receptor sites which are primarily located in the heart.

Translation: This stuff slows down the heart. They also decrease sweating and tremor.

These medications have been used for some time as a kind of performance enhancer by musicians, public speakers, and others that may encounter stage fright.

Of course, these medications also come with a set of drawbacks. Beta blockers may cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, dizziness, cold hands, or vomiting. You may also experience rash, blurred vision or fatigue.

What’s nice about beta-blockers though is that they are not habit forming and effective at treating anxiety symptoms.

They can provide hours of relief and are safe for people that don’t have underlying health issues.

Examples of Beta-blockers:

  • Inderal (propranolol)
  • Sectral (acebutolol)
  • Brevibloc (esmolol)
  • Coreg (carvedilol)
  • Tenormin (atenolol)

Antihistamines Are Not Just for Sniffles

When you think of antihistamines you probably think of stopping allergy or cold symptoms but they are also used to treat anxiety. They work by blocking histamine receptors in the central nervous system which produces a sedative effect.

Sedation may cause you to feel sleepy or develop a headache but otherwise these medications are well tolerated by most people.

One of the upsides to using antihistamines is that you can buy certain brands over the counter.

This can make anxiety management cheap and convenient. But I encourage you to not treat yourself with these medications long-term.

Besides, the more effective versions of these medications are prescription only and it’s always better to err on the side of caution and consult with a doctor about what you’re taking to manage your anxiety.

Examples of Antihistamines:

  • Atarax/Vistaril (hydroxyzine)
  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine)

It’s Not Just About Drugs

It’s important to understand that it is difficult to heal abnormal anxiety while experiencing intense physical symptoms. They make it hard for you to focus on solutions because they cause an OCD like obsession with well being.

However, through the use of fast acting anxiety medication you can calm your body and eventually your mind thereby limiting the amount of suffering that you have to endure before you get better.

Unfortunately, reducing your physical symptoms alone won’t be enough. Once you get your symptoms under control you still have to do the hard work of learning how to manage stress.

That means developing effective coping skills, taking care of your relationships, and addressing long-term problems that are contributing to your anxiety.

If I could do it all over again I would have at least tried a fast acting anxiety medication to deal with the intense symptoms that I experienced.

Maybe then I could have found my way out of the woods sooner.

What’s been your experience with these medications? Share your ideas with me in the comments section below.

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  • chillielover

    I recently tried the beta blocker propranolol for a week due to constant anxiety and regular panic attacks. However I must be unknowingly asthmatic as it quickly made me breathless gasping for air and dizzy, which only made my anxiety worse. Its definitely worth trying though as its not habit forming and wont leave you with a physical dependence like an SSRI. Thanks for article!

  • http://www.anxietyguru.net/ Paul Dooley

    Hey Chillielover, It may also be due to the fact that beta-blockers can lower blood pressure which could explain the slower respiration. Dizziness is a common side-effect of beta-blockers as well. I hope you don’t give up looking for something that works despite the set back.

  • Richard Ae Davies

    Hi I have anxiety for a long time now, I have been taking propranolol for quite a while to. I seen my doctor on a fortnightly basis and been put forward to a therapist, I am on my 3rd session at the end of the month, my only trouble is that I had a horrible relationship breakdown two years ago and my parents split last year after 37 year and my mum will not get off my back, she has contributed her selfish ways over the last year, I have been stuck in a rut and do not no where to turn, im now in a new relationship and expecting my first child next july.

  • Sharon

    A couple of years ago I had a terrible bout of anxiety for months, to the point that I felt it even the moment I woke up to the time I went to sleep. I could hardly function. The doctor tried several benzos and other medications. Nothing worked. All of them had unpleasant side effects, as well. Finally, they gave me olanzapine (same as Zyprexa), and it worked literally overnight. The only side effect is that it increased my appetite so I had to be careful with my eating. Anyway, this worked like a miracle drug, for my anxiety.

  • anna

    Great article! Beta blockers help me with night time panic attacks. I hardly experience anxiety these days but I still carry these little tables with me wherever I go. What helped me most was a regular chat with a psychologist, change of life style and regular exercise.

  • Jason

    I was on sertraline for my anxiety, it worked for sleeping as well. For me, I’m not into drugs, but the anxiety thing was too much to handle so I went on the medication for two years and now i’m off of everything. It took me awhile to understand that theres two stages to a panic attack that i can prevent. First part was the bewilderment and fear, that first thought when a panic attack happens, then my mind adds to it by thinking of all the what ifs, like what if it doesn’t go away, what if i can’t find an exit to leave the room, but after catching myself doing that, i don’t ask what if anymore cuz it gives my anxiety fuel and the power to take over. I know i can control my anxiety with proper breathing and calming all my cells in my body, if that makes sense. I imagine my brain is a slab of butter on a hot summer day, in the sun. All the anxiety melting away and hearing the sounds of summer. I only think about that and imagine i’m there, in that summer time atmosphere. That way my anxious thoughts can’t get into my brain. I think of it as a reset, then the second part is reassurring myself that the roof won’t fall down on me, and if it does, i can get out, there are exits. These thoughts can spread like a wild fire so i have to keep them away from brain/thoughts. Usually after a minute i’m fine. Proud to say i’m off the meds but i do have benzos just in case, i haven’t had to use them in a year, but just the thought i have them is conforting for me. It can be done to be off all meds and anxiety is something I need to keep in check constantly.

  • Derek

    I use Ativan as needed, and it can be a lifesaver. I am very careful not to over use it as I know tolerance and dependence can develop. .5 – 1 mg can knock down a pretty sever anxiety spell. It lasts several hours and can make you feel normal for a while. It is only a very temporary fix, but I think it can make room for real healing (thearpy and mindfulness) if it is used sparingly.

  • chillielover
  • Jennifer Schonberg

    Paul your statement about Benzos is perfect. Anytime i freak out, taking an alprazolam cools your head. But it is sedative and and will put you out for several hours. Secondly these are recommended once a day for nights alone.

    Talking about betablockers, these are the most dangerous class of drugs. You cant just pop in one at the time of anxiety and stop. It will lead to a rebound tachycardia. I had one and had to rush to the cardiologist. BBs make you light sensitive and creates rebound anxiety.

  • Jennifer Schonberg

    Chillie betablockers are contraindicated in asthmastics as it can lead to bronchospasm. The reason for gasping of air and dizziness is not asthma symptoms, it is a symptom of rebound tachycardia. When such a symptom occurs go to the ER immediately. It happened to me. The cardiologist put me on further betablockers, and i slowly weaned them off. It was a nightmare.

  • anxietyfighter

    I just started on Lexapro. However, I’ve been reading “When Panic Attacks” by Dr. Burns, which I think has been quite helpful. His arguments are that anxiety is essentially thought based, and not genetically linked. It’s been making me not want to continue my SSRI, mostly because I’ve already noticed a difference just by trying to change my thoughts. I’ve been doing a daily thought log, which has shifted some of my thinking. However, I’m in grad school, so having time to work on this enough has been challenging, and I find myself slipping backwards some days, which is frustrating!

  • Lori

    I have to agree with Jennifer’s comment below on betablockers: I took one once and it worked amazingly, but the rebound anxiety 6 hours later was no picnic.

  • Megan

    I really appreciate how you highlighted coping skills. This is such a common therapy technique that it can get a bad rap because it is often not utilized well – sometimes clients are encouraged to just make “throw away” list.