Trazodone is a prescription antidepressant medication. It’s typically prescribed when other antidepressants haven’t been effective or have caused side effects. Trazodone is part of a class of antidepressants known as serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors.

How trazodone works isn’t completely understood. It’s known that it inhibits two types of serotonin receptors in the brain, which can increase levels of serotonin.

Serotonin is a chemical messenger that influences many things, including mood, emotion, and sleep. Therefore, an increase in serotonin can help to ease symptoms of conditions like depression.

Trazodone is approved by the FDA for the treatment of major depressive disorder. However, it’s sometimes prescribed off-label for the treatment of anxiety.

Medications are considered off-label when they’re prescribed for the treatment of a condition the FDA hasn’t approved them for. One common reason your doctor may prescribe a medication off-label is if you’ve tried other approved treatments without seeing any benefit.

In addition to anxiety, trazodone has been used off-label to treat other conditions, such as insomnia, substance abuse, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Although some antidepressants such as SSRIs and SNRIs can commonly be used as first-line treatments for anxiety, trazodone isn’t used as often. It may be prescribed for anxiety if other medications haven’t been effective.

Is trazodone actually effective in treating anxiety?

Several older studies have assessed the efficacy of trazodone for anxiety:

Another possible benefit to taking trazodone for anxiety may be that you’re able to fall asleep easier. One of the common side effects of trazodone is sleepiness or feeling drowsy. Trazodone is also sometimes prescribed off-label to treat insomnia.

Is taking trazodone for anxiety similar to taking a medication like Xanax?

Xanax is actually a different type of drug than trazodone. Xanax is a type of anti-anxiety drug called a benzodiazepine. Examples of other benzodiazepine drugs include Valium and Klonopin.

Benzodiazepine drugs work by increasing activity at receptors in your brain called GABA receptors. This has an effect of slowing down your nervous system, which can make you feel more relaxed and calm.

Xanax is similar to trazodone in that it may cause side effects such as feeling tired and drowsy. When this occurs during the day, it can affect your day-to-day activities.

However, unlike trazodone, Xanax and other benzodiazepine drugs can be addictive, even if you’ve been using them as directed. Because of this, they should only be used for short periods of time.

As with any medication, taking trazodone can have some disadvantages.

side effects of trazodone
  • feeling sleepy or tired, which can occur during the day
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • constipation
  • weight gain

In addition to common side effects, there are some potential health risks associated with taking trazodone.

Serious side effects from taking trazodone are rare, but they can include:

potential risks of trazodone
  • an increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors, particularly in children and young adults
  • priapism, a painful, long-lasting erection
  • cardiac arrhythmias, which are heartbeats that can be faster than normal, slower than normal, or irregular
  • anaphylaxis, a very serious allergic reaction

If you experience any serious side effects while taking trazodone for anxiety, contact your doctor promptly.

Overdose

It’s possible to take too much trazodone. If you experience symptoms of a trazodone overdose, seek emergency medical attention. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • feeling extremely tired or sleepy
  • dizziness or fainting
  • vomiting
  • confusion
  • issues with your heart or breathing
  • seizures

Addiction

There’s no evidence that suggests that trazodone is addictive.

However, you may experience symptoms if you stop taking it abruptly. These symptoms include being irritable or agitated and having trouble sleeping. Because of this, it’s important to work with your doctor to come off trazodone gradually.

Trazodone is an antidepressant medication that’s approved by the FDA for treating major depressive disorder. However, your doctor may also prescribe it off-label for the treatment of anxiety. This can happen when other treatments haven’t been effective.

Unlike medications like Xanax, trazodone isn’t habit forming. However, it can have side effects such as drowsiness, headache, and dry mouth. If your doctor prescribes you trazodone for anxiety, always take it as directed and immediately report any serious side effects.