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Conventional medications for anxiety: what to know.

It may be a different kind of "normal," but it's definitely normal to experience anxiety when faced with MS. "What's going to happen to me?" "How can I talk to my children?" "Should I disclose at work?" These are questions that would keep anyone up at night.

That said, it's important to distinguish between a normal reaction to a disturbing medical situation and symptoms of an anxiety disorder.


"I'm a big believer in talking problems through with a professional," Sarah L. Minden, MD, a psychiatrist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told Momentum. "But symptoms of anxiety can be so painful that a person can't function, in which case medication may help."

When medication is involved, Minden emphasized that "it's essential to partner with a mental health professional. I don't believe people should ever use medication to treat anxiety without talk therapy."

It helps to go into any therapy partnership prepared. Think about life questions to ask as well as what medications might help, what side effects to expect and what to do if you experience any.

Here is a brief introduction to some common anti-anxiety drugs.

Quick relief

For short-term relief of anxiety, your healthcare professional may prescribe a drug belonging to the benzodiazepine class of drugs. These include Valium, Xanax, Ativan and Klonopin.

"These are very good for calming symptoms of anxiety quickly, but they can be addictive," Minden warned. "If people take them for too long, they may have to increase their dose to get the same effect. They can also cause serious withdrawal symptoms. They should not be used long-term."

The longer haul

For long-term treatment of anxiety, many health care professionals prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro and Celexa, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which include Effexor and Cymbalta. These take anywhere from four to 12 weeks to begin working--and not every drug works the same for everybody. "When they work, they can be remarkably effective. If they don't work, there are other drugs to try," Minden said.

Tricyclic antidepressants such as Elavil or Tofranil are other medications your care provider may prescribe.

Marcella Durand is on the sta. of Momentum.
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Title Annotation:Healthy Living
Author:Durand, Marcella
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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