As part of your treatment, your doctor might offer to prescribe you some medication. There are 4 types of medication which can be helpful in managing anxiety:
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces health care guidelines – ideally your doctor should offer you other kinds of treatment for anxiety first, before prescribing these drugs.
(See our pages on psychiatric medication for guidance on what to know before taking any medication, your right to refuse, coping with side effects and coming off medication.)
- Antidepressants might help you feel calmer and more able to benefit from a more long-term treatment such as a talking treatment.
- However, they can sometimes cause unwanted side effects, such as increasing your anxiety or causing problems with sleeping.
(See our pages on antidepressants for more information on what they are, what to know before taking them, possible side effects and withdrawal. You can also look up detailed information about specific antidepressants in our antidepressants A-Z.)
- Beta-blockers, such as propranolol, can treat some of the physical symptoms of anxiety, including a rapid heartbeat, palpitations and a tremor (shaking).
- They can be helpful when you have to face a particular phobia, such as going on an aeroplane.
- However, they are not psychiatric medication, so they won’t reduce any of your psychological symptoms.
(See our page on treatments available for phobias for more information about beta-blockers.)
- Your doctor might prescribe you tranquillisers (benzodiazepines) if your anxiety is very severe or disabling.
- Tranquillisers can't tackle the cause of your problems, but they can bring some relief until you have another form of treatment in place.
- Tranquillisers should only be a temporary measure, because it’s possible that you could become addicted to these drugs and have difficulty coming off them.
(See our pages on sleeping pills and minor tranquillisers for more information about what they are, how they can help, possible side effects and withdrawal.)
Pregabalin (an anticonvulsant drug)
In some cases, such as if you have a diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), your doctor may decide to prescribe you a drug called pregabalin (Lyrica).
This drug is an anticonvulsant medication which is normally used to treat epilepsy, but is also licensed to treat anxiety.
This information was published in February 2015. We will revise it in 2018.