Antidepressants for Anxiety

Paroxetine (Paxil) and venlafaxin HCl (Effexor XR) are the only antidepressants indicated for GAD, though it is generally believed that all antidepressant drugs significantly improve symptoms.

Beta-blockers to Treat Anxiety

Beta-blockers that are used to treat cardiac conditions, also may be used in anxiety disorders to stop the physical symptoms of anxiety. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them for this use, psychiatrists may prescribe them. The drugs reduce nervous tension, sweating, panic, high blood pressure, and shakiness.

Their efficacy is limited to reducing these types of symptoms. Beta-blockers are not typically considered a first-line treatment for GAD.

Furthermore, beta-blockers have many side effects, including the following:

  • Body ache
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Dry eyes
  • Impotence (erectile dysfunction)
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure and reduced pulse rate
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Rash

These drugs may cause problems for people with kidney or liver conditions. Also, they are excreted in breast milk, so nursing mothers should consult with their physicians before using them.

Medication may be used long-term or may be tapered and finally discontinued once severe anxiety is controlled or eliminated through psychotherapy.

Publication Review By: Debra Emmite, M.D.

Published: 02 May 2001

Last Modified: 01 Sep 2015