The main differences between the different types of anxiety drugs are the way they affect how the brain functions. As prescription medication for mental disorders is not an exact science, your doctor may prescribe several medications in a trial-and-error method to see what works best for you. It is very unlikely that a medication will be the answer to anxiety. Psychotherapy is absolutely essential to appropriate treatment for an anxiety disorder.

Some drugs that are approved to treat anxiety include:


This medication is used to treat both short-term anxiety and chronic anxiety disorders. It can take up to several weeks to become fully effective and can be used on an on-going basis.

It is sold under the brand names Buspar and Vanspar.


Antidepressant medications affect neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals that relay messages, and can be used to treat anxiety symptoms. The kinds of antidepressants used to treat anxiety are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They act by interacting with serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects factors including mood, sexual desire, appetite, sleep, and memory.

Some antidepressants used to treat anxiety include:

  • escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • imipramine (Tofranil)
  • paroxetine (Paxil)
  • sertraline (Zoloft)
  • venlafaxine (Effexor)


Usually reserved for only short-term use of anxiety, benzodiazepines are known for the sedative qualities. They also can be habit-forming, increase drowsiness, and affect balance and memory. There is an increasing epidemic of benzodiazepine abuse and it is very important that these drugs be considered as a short term option for anxiety treatment until more effective, more useful therapies are initiated.

Some benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety include:

  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)