If you have an anxiety disorder and need non-addictive anxiety medications due to your medical history, then this article is for you! Medications like benzodiazapines might not be suitable for people who have a history of drug and alcohol dependency or who can’t take muscle relaxers due to their job.
However, there are plenty of effective, non-habit-forming anxiety medications available, and many of them are available online.
In this post, we will explore many non-addictive anxiety medications to help you gain a better understanding of your treatment options. We know that living with an anxiety disorder is exhausting and that its symptoms can distract you from taking the necessary steps to get the help you need.
That’s where we come in.
Klarity is a unique telemedicine service that connects people with mental health specialists who can diagnose and prescribe medication online. Our service is affordable, convenient, and fast—schedule virtual appointments within 48 hours and get online anxiety treatment on your own terms.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are five types of anxiety, each with unique characteristics. These include
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experience excessive worry and fear over everyday situations, tasks, and interactions. GAD feels like a constant distracting fear that interferes with your ability to function.
For a proper diagnosis, this excessive fear and worry must last over six months and include the following symptoms
- Feeling on-edge
- Feeling tired or becoming tired easily
- Difficulties focusing attention or concentrating
- Feeling irritable
- Having unexplained pains—headaches, muscle aches, G.I. issues, etc
- Inability to control feelings of worry
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder have repetitive, intrusive, and distressing thoughts or fears—called obsessions. In order to relieve the anxiety and distress these obsessions cause, the person will engage in compulsions or behaviors that temporarily relieve the anxiety, fear, and distress.
Eventually, a person’s obsessions and compulsions interfere with their ability to function at home, work, and school. That person may avoid situations that trigger their obsessions to avoid having to act out their compulsions.
Here are two examples of obsessions and compulsions
Obsession: fear of germs or contamination
Compulsion: washing hands repetitively until hands are chapped and raw
Obsession: fear of messing up or being wrong
Compulsion: constantly checking the locks on doors and windows to make sure you locked them
People with panic disorder experience intense bouts of fear or panic that often happen unpredictably. These attacks can last for 5 to 20 minutes, or longer in some cases, and are very disorienting and frightening to experience.
People report the following symptoms when experiencing a panic attack
- Pounding heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling faint
- Intense sweating
- Pins and needles sensation in the limbs
- Dry mouth
- G.I. issues
- Chest tightness and pain
- Shaky limbs
- Choking sensation
- Feeling disconnected from your body or from reality
- An uncontrollable, intense feeling of doom
- A fear of dying
There are two types of panic attacks—expected panic attacks and unexpected panic attacks.
- Expected panic attacks occur when the person knows the trigger or cause of the panic attack.
- Unexpected panic attacks occur when the cause is unknown.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. People with PTSD may have trouble coping with the trauma of their experience and struggle to function normally at home, at work, or in society at large.
This type of anxiety can develop anywhere from a month to several years after the traumatic event. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include
- Intrusive memories of the event, including nightmares and flashbacks
- Intense emotional and physical reactions to triggers that recall the traumatic event
- Avoiding people, places, and things that could act as a trigger
- Negative changes in thinking and attitude, in self-perception, and in the perception of society
- Feeling detached from family and friends
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Being prone to angry or emotional outbursts
- Self-destructive behavior like abusing drugs or alcohol
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by a persistent fear of everyday social interactions. Feelings of panic, anxiety, self-consciousness, and doubt overwhelm people with SAD. The anxiety and discomfort caused by certain triggers often cause people with the disorder to engage in avoidant behavior.
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder include
- Constantly fearing that others are judging you or thinking negatively about you
- Constantly worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
- Fear of interacting with strangers
- Fear of sweating, blushing, or appearing nervous
- Shaking or trembling
- Difficulty finding voice
- Avoiding situations where you receive attention or need to speak with new people
- Anxiety in anticipation of an event or situation where you must meet with or speak to a new person or group of people
- Catastrophizing about the worst-case scenarios in social interactions
- Focusing on every flaw or detail in your appearance or in your mannerisms when interacting with others
Habit-Forming Anxiety Medications
Before digging into the many non-habit-forming anxiety medications available to people with anxiety disorders, it’s important to learn about habit-forming anti-anxiety medications.
Benzodiazepines are sedative medications that are prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and sleeping disorders. Specifically, benzodiazepines work by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This chemical reduces activity in regions of the brain responsible for:
- Automatic functions like breathing
By increasing the amount of GABA in the brain, a person experiences a sedative effect and will feel strong emotions—like panic, fear, and anxiety—to a much lesser degree.
Common long-acting benzodiazepines include:
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium, Tropium)
- Clonazepam (Rivotril)
- Diazepam (Diazemuls, Diazepam RecTubes, Stesolid, Tensium)
Common short-acting benzodiazepines include:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
These drugs do have pronounced side effects, making them not ideal for people who need to drive, operate heavy machinery, or use fine-motor skills during the day.
- Memory problems
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
People quickly build up a tolerance to benzodiazepines, meaning they’ll require higher doses over time to receive the same benefits. This mechanism can be dangerous and lead to a person developing a dependence on benzodiazepines.
If you have an anxiety disorder and are unable to take benzodiazepines due to your job or because of a history of a substance use disorder, then you’ll want to explore various non-addictive anxiety medications.
Non-Addictive Anxiety Medications
Many antidepressants, allergy medications, and even blood pressure medications are approved by the FDA to help manage anxiety symptoms or are prescribed as “off-label” treatments for anxiety.
SSRIs are a type of antidepressant medication. Short for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs help elevate levels of serotonin in the areas of the brain where it is most useful—in the synaptic gap. By preventing serotonin from being reabsorbed, the neurotransmitter can build up over time in the synapses.
Serotonin is a vital neurotransmitter that helps to manage the following
- Wound healing
- Bone health
- Blood clotting
- Sexual desire
Common side effects of SSRIs include
- Blurred vision
- Sleep disturbance (insomnia)
- Dry mouth
- Agitation and nervousness
- Sexual dysfunction (loss of libido, loss of erection, or ejaculation)
Types of SSRIs
The following SSRIs are prescribed to help patients manage symptoms associated with OCD, GAD, PTSD, and panic disorder.
Fluoxetine (Prozac) is an oral medication used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorders by inhibiting serotonin reuptake.
Escitalopram (Lexapro) treats generalized anxiety disorders (GAD) by restoring serotonin balance in the brain.
Citalopram (Celexa) is sometimes used to treat symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This helps decrease impulsivity in the brain and relieves symptoms of triggered anxiety.
Sertraline (Zoloft) is commonly used to treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety, and panic disorders.
SNRIs are another class of antidepressants that helps elevate serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the synapses of the brain. SNRIs are prescribed for many of the same reasons SSRIs are prescribed. However, because this medication class also elevates norepinephrine, people report a stimulant-like effect, which can make certain anxiety disorders worse.
Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter and hormone that plays a role in
Some common side effects of SNRIs are
- Dry mouth
- Sexual dysfunction (loss of libido)
- Sleep disturbance (insomnia)
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty urinating
Types of SNRIs
SNRIs are commonly used as a treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social phobias. In addition to these applications, SNRIs are also prescribed to help manage symptoms of ADHD, menopause, chronic neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia.
Venlafaxine (Effexor XR) is commonly used to treat patients with generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and social anxiety disorders. This medication is known to possibly increase blood pressure and is contraindicated for hypertensive patients.
Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is used to treat anxiety and patients that experience muscle aches and pain. This helps by relieving the tension that affects the body with chronic stress. This may worsen liver problems in patients with underlying issues.
Other SNRIs Used To Treat Anxiety Disorders
- Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
- Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
Black Box Warning For Antidepressants
Both SSRIs and SNRIs come with a black box warning from the FDA. Though rare, antidepressants can cause suicidal ideation in children and adolescents. These findings have not been duplicated in adult populations. However, everyone prescribed antidepressants in the United States must be informed of the risks.
Vistaril is an antihistamine used to treat short-term anxiety by reducing brain activity and slowing down brain conduction, therefore reducing anxiety symptoms. In addition to treating anxiety, antihistamines help control allergic reactions, reducing itching, hives, rashes, and inflammatory swelling.
Common side effects of Vistaril include
- Increased drowsiness
- Irregular heartbeats (fast-paced, pounding heartbeats)
- Chest pain
- Dry mouth
- Skin rash
Buspirone, which used to be known as BuSpar, is an anxiolytic medication that helps people with anxiety relax, think clearly, and remain calm. Buspirone helps treat the physical symptoms of anxiety and works well when paired with an SSRI or SNRI.
Common side effects of Buspar are
- Increased depression
- Nausea or vomiting
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Dry mouth
- Stomach pain
Other, more rare side effects that should be closely monitored include
- Suicidal ideation
- Chest pain
- Thyroid abnormalities
- Eye pain
Patients are advised to use caution when driving and operating heavy machinery.
Beta-blockers are a class of medication that predominantly helps lower blood pressure, manage abnormal heart rhythms, and help the heart beat slower and with less force. Beta-blockers block receptors that usually respond to the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) and trigger the fight-or-flight response.
People with anxiety have fight-or-flight responses that are more easily triggered than the average person. Therefore beta-blockers are sometimes prescribed to help people with panic disorder, PTSD, and other anxiety disorders manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, which include elevated heart rate, sweating, and feelings of panic or impending doom.
Types of Beta-Blockers
Some examples of oral beta-blockers include:
Acebutolol treats high blood pressure and chest pain and controls irregular heartbeat by relaxing blood vessels and arteries.
Atenolol is a beta blocker that helps reduce the effects of high blood pressure and chest pain, such as angina, by regulating circulation and widening arteries.
Propranolol is a medication used for chest pain such as angina and to reduce the chances of a heart attack. This medication also helps patients that suffer from fast and irregular heartbeat by slowing down the heart.
Pregabalin is an anxiolytic medication commonly used to treat anxiety, epilepsy, and nerve pain.
Some common side effects of pregabalin are
- Feeling tired and increased sleepiness
- Mood changes
- Blurred vision
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Memory problems
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant, which is a class of medication that treats seizures. This medication reduces anxiety symptoms by decreasing excitement in the brain.
Some common side effects of gabapentin to be aware of are
- Nausea and vomiting
- Double or blurred vision
- Drowsiness, tiredness, and weakness
- Memory problems
- Flu-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat
Diphenhydramine is a sedative antihistamine medication used to treat allergies. This medication treats the physical symptoms of anxiety and is also used as a sleep aid for patients with insomnia.
Diphenhydramine has not been FDA-approved as a treatment for anxiety but is prescribed as an off-label treatment.
Diphenhydramine may cause the following side effects:
- Increased drowsiness and sleepiness
- Increased chest congestion and productive cough
- Increased and irregular heartbeats
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation and stomach aches
- Painful or little urination
Licensed providers on Klarity provide personalized mental health treatment. Find a provider that matches your needs and preferences.
Klarity Can Help You Get Online Anxiety Treatment Fast
If you have an anxiety disorder but can’t take benzodiazepines because of your medical history, there are many alternatives that are not habit-forming. From antihistamines to antidepressants, there are many non-muscle-relaxant medications that can help relieve anxiety symptoms.
Klarity can connect you with a medical provider who can diagnose and prescribe non-addictive anxiety medication online. Our unique telehealth service is fast, affordable, and convenient. If you take our 2-minute self-evaluation, you can connect with a provider on Klarity within 48 hours!
“Buspirone.” MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a688005.html
“Gabapentin.” MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a694007.html
“Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).” Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/generalized-anxiety-disorder
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20354432
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs).” Mayo Clinic.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353561
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Beta Blockers.” Mayo Clinic.
“Panic Disorder.” National Health Service. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/panic-disorder/
“Pregabalin: Medicine to Treat Epilepsy and Anxiety.” National Health Service.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs).” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/antidepressants/art-20044970
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).” Mayo Clinic.
Vikki Chan. “Types of Panic Attacks.” Psyche Central. https://psychcentral.com/anxiety/types-of-panic-attacks
“Vistaril.” RxList. https://www.rxlist.com/vistaril-drug.htm