Common Anxiety Medication Side Effects & Alternative Medicine Options

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"Prescription medication can be incredibly helpful for many people struggling with anxiety, whether they experience their symptoms occasionally or frequently."

Common Anxiety Medication Side Effects & Alternative Options

Living with anxiety can be debilitating at times, especially if you haven’t found a medication that works for you. And even when you do find a medication, it can be disheartening to put up with side effects like headaches, nausea, or drowsiness, which are so common with prescription anti-anxiety drugs

This article will break down some of the most common side effects of popular anxiety medicines, discuss alternative options, and share what else you can do at home to support your efforts.

Common Side Effects of Anxiety Medicines

Anxiety medications, while effective in managing symptoms, often come with a range of potential side effects. For some, the benefits of these drugs outweigh the risks, and sometimes side effects resolve as the body adjusts to the dosage. Here are some of the most common side effects of popular anxiety medications:

1. Benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax®, Valium®)

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications commonly prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders due to their fast-acting nature. They increase levels of GABA (a neurotransmitter related to calmness) in the brain. However, they also carry the risk of several side effects, including:1

  • Drowsiness and sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Respiratory depression (especially when combined with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants)
  • Dependency and withdrawal symptoms with long-term use

2. SSRIs (e.g., Prozac®, Zoloft®, Lexapro®)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant frequently used to treat anxiety disorders. They work by making more serotonin (a neurotransmitter related to mood regulation) available in the brain. While generally well-tolerated, SSRIs may cause the following side effects:2

  • Nausea and gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia or drowsiness
  • Sexual dysfunction, including decreased libido and difficulty achieving orgasm
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts, particularly in young adults

3. Buspirone (e.g., BuSpar®)

Buspirone is another medication used to treat generalized anxiety disorder. It balances serotonin as well as dopamine, another neurotransmitter related to mood. It also has fewer side effects compared to benzodiazepines and SSRIs but it may still cause:3

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Nervousness or excitement
  • Insomnia

4. Beta-Blockers (e.g., propranolol)

Beta-blockers are blood pressure medications used off-label for anxiety. They work by relaxing your blood vessels and slowing your heart rate, helping to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. While generally safe, they can lead to:4

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Bradycardia (slow heart rate)

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Alternative Medicine Options and Lifestyle Changes

Prescription medication can be incredibly helpful for many people struggling with anxiety, whether they experience their symptoms occasionally or frequently. However, they are not the only option available. If you are looking for alternative anxiety medicines to avoid the side effects of these drugs, or you are looking for something to supplement your medication to avoid increasing your dosage (which increases the likelihood of experiencing side effects), consider these approaches to managing anxiety:

Therapy and Counseling

Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can be highly effective in treating anxiety disorders. It helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and develop coping strategies. Some studies show that CBT may be as effective or more effective than alternative forms of psychological therapy or even psychiatric medications.5

Herbal Supplements

Some herbal supplements, such as passionflower, kava, and valerian root, are believed to have calming effects. However, their efficacy and safety vary, and it's essential to consult with a doctor before use, especially if you are taking other medications or supplements.

OTC Medicines (e.g., Brillia)

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for anxiety like Brillia offer a gentle and impactful route to reducing symptoms without harmful side effects. Free from harsh, synthetic chemicals, Brillia promotes calmness and clarity by targeting the S100B protein, a key regulator of various different intracellular and extracellular brain processes, including mood stabilization. 

Studies show when you have too much of this protein in the body, symptoms of anxiety like restlessness, irritability, and poor focus, can manifest. Without altering blood chemistry or affecting any other symptoms in the body, Brillia reduces this protein’s activity, which in turn reduces anxiety. As a result of this regulating effect, other monoamines (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) also stabilize to support your mood. These effects are achieved without upsetting the stomach, causing fatigue, masking the personality, or interacting with other medications you are taking. 

You also will not build up a tolerance to Brillia over time; once you find your dosage and you take the medication consistently, you do not need to progressively increase your dosage unless your symptoms don’t resolve and you find you still need more support. 

Brillia is part of a holistic approach called the Five Pillars, which merges our homeopathic medication with healthy lifestyle habits for long-term anxiety relief. These habits include proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness practices, which have all been proven to help reduce anxiety with or without supplemental medication. Over time, as you practice these habits and integrate them into your life, you will eventually need less and less of any medication to manage your symptoms. The plan promotes self-regulation as the ultimate solution, though you can continue taking Brillia as long as needed.   

Amino Acid Supplements

Certain amino acids, such as L-theanine and GABA, are thought to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety symptoms. However, like herbal supplements, research on their effectiveness is limited, and they may interact with other medications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor first before taking these and other supplements.

Mindfulness Practices

We already mentioned mindfulness as one of our Five Pillars, but it’s worth mentioning again due to its efficacy. Mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help alleviate anxiety symptoms by promoting relaxation and mindfulness. They also train the brain to focus on the moment and challenge reactive thoughts and emotions, helping you to change the way your body responds to anxiety triggers. Incorporating these practices into daily routines can provide long-term benefits for managing anxiety as proven in numerous peer-reviewed studies.6

While prescription anxiety medications can be beneficial for many people, it’s essential to weigh the potential side effects against the benefits and explore alternative options when necessary. Be sure to ask your doctor about the treatment plans available and the associated side effects you can expect before committing to any one type of therapy. 

And find more tips and resources on managing anxiety at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.

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References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
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