by Calm Clinic Editorial Team and Micah Abraham, BSc
Micah Abraham, BSc
Last updated October 10, 2020
Those who live with anxiety every day know how important it is to get relief. Anxiety disorder is a life-altering condition, and one that makes everything you do a significantly less enjoyable. It is a condition that you need to treat.
There are many different types of anxiety treatments from therapy to relaxation exercises to herbal supplements, and more. Some people need the pharmacological treatment, which begs the question: what is the best anti-anxiety medication?
Different Medications for Different Anxiety Disorders
One of the issues that comes from recommending a medication is that doctors have found that each medicine works differently on each individual. It starts with determining the disorder you suffer from. What works for generalized anxiety disorder may not work for panic disorder, and what works for panic disorder may not work for obsessive compulsive disorder, and so on.
No one can truly recommend a medication without knowing your own personal history, and you must never take a medication that affects your mental health without a doctor's supervision.
The Problem With Relying on Medicine
Medications should always be your last resort when it comes to treating your anxiety. The reason is not just because anxiety medications (known as anxiolytics) have side effects - although that is a problem with every mental health medication - but because medications prevent you from learning to cope without them.
That's the greatest issue with medication. All anxiety medications dull anxiety without teaching you how to control it. Anxiety isn't like getting an infection. You cannot simply take an antibiotic and have your anxiety go away. Those who rely too much on medication often find that they don't use or learn the skills necessary to cope with anxiety.
As soon as your stop taking any medicine your anxiety will most likely come back. And if you haven't learned any new coping skills, it may even be worse than before.
Safety and Other Considerations
It's also important to realize that the long term use of a mental health medication is going to have an effect on your wellbeing. Some cause digestion issues. Others cause extreme fatigue. These side effects can have a disruptive effect on your life.
Similarly, some anti-anxiety medications cause dependency with severe withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it or miss too many doses. Some medications may also lose their effectiveness over time (while still causing withdrawal symptoms). Keep this in mind and discuss with your doctor when you are choosing the right medication for you.
The Best Anti-Anxiety Medicine (Best Anxiolytic)
Since there is no such thing as a "best" anxiety medication. It is imperative to work with your doctor on choosing the one that can work best for you. The best for you may not be the best for someone else.
The best anxiety medication is often the one that is the weakest. An anti-anxiety medicine with a milder effect is Buspirone (Buspar). Buspar is good for mild anxiety but doesn't appear to have an effect on panic attacks. Many users also report very little improvement in their anxiety symptoms, but it has the following benefits:
- Buspar has fewer side effects as compared to other anxiolytics, such as benzodiazepines.
- Buspar is only an anxiolytic. Almost every other drug on the market for anxiety has other purposes as well - some are antidepressants, some are anticonvulsants or muscle relaxants. Buspar's only effect is its ability to control anxiety, which is all most people want.
- Buspar has no withdrawal symptoms and will not cause dependency. That will make it easier for you to stop taking buspirone in the event that you find a solution to control your anxiety.
While many other anti-anxiety drugs are more powerful, they are also more likely to fail at one of the above benefits. That's why even though buspirone tends to be the weakest, it is also a smart choice for your first anti-anxiety medication.
Alternative Treatments to Anxiety Drugs
As mentioned, however, no anxiety drug works perfectly. The truth is that all anxiety medications can cause harm, and none of them help you stop anxiety permanently. You always need to consider an alternative treatment first (ideally before you use a medication at all) and absolutely need to make sure that you partner any anxiety medication with a long-term solution.
Alternative treatments include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Therapy is a completely safe and long-term treatment for anxiety, and can provide assistance for every type of anxiety disorder. Remember, not all medications work for all anxiety, but CBT techniques have been developed to permanently reduce any and all anxiety disorders and symptoms.
- Herbal Supplements Herbal supplements are another alternative to anxiety medications. They generally tend to be safe, have no withdrawal symptoms, and can be used as needed. But it must be noted that the most powerful herbal supplements can still have side effects or drug interactions, so before you take herbal supplements (especially kava, which is the most powerful) you should still talk to your doctor.
- Exercise Exercise is a very real, very effective solution for anxiety, and should be one of the first you try. Studies have shown that exercise can be as powerful or more powerful than some anxiety medications, and of course exercise is healthier for you than any other option available.
If you truly want to find relief from anxiety without medication - or even with medication - you need to base your treatment off of your symptoms.
Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!
Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?
Ask Doctor a Question
You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.
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