Call our free, confidential 24-hour helpline


Trauma Rehab Centers

How Do I Know I’m Dependent on My Anxiety Meds?

How Do I Know I’m Dependent on My Anxiety Meds?According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the United States. This class of disorders includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In addition to being referred to therapy, those diagnosed with anxiety disorders are often placed on medications to manage the distressing symptoms of their condition.

Anxiety Medications

There are several different classes of medications used to treat anxiety disorders. The most commonly used classes of drugs for this purpose include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), benzodiazepines, and tricyclic antidepressants.

SSRIs, including Celexa and Prozac, increase levels of serotonin in the brain by blocking their reabsorption in the brain. These medications are considered to be effective against all anxiety disorders. Common side effects of SSRIs include changes in sleep patterns, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain.

SNRIs have a similar action to SSRIs, though these drugs block the reabsorption of both serotonin and norepinephrine. These drugs, including Effexor and Cymbalta, are considered to be especially useful in the treatment of GAD. Side effects of SNRIs include insomnia, sexual dysfunction, headaches, and upset stomach.

Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Valium, are sometimes used as a short-term treatment for anxiety disorders. In regards to anxiety disorders, these medications are most often prescribed to treat GAD and panic disorder. Benzodiazepines have many possible side effects, including sedation, dizziness, headaches, and sleep disturbances.

Lastly, tricyclic antidepressants are sometimes used to treat anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, PTSD, and GAD. Like SNRIs, tricyclic antidepressants increase levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. However, these drugs also block the action of another chemical called acetylcholine. Common side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, and increased appetite.

Signs of Anxiety Medication Dependence

Unfortunately, the use of these medications often leads to drug dependence. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), drug dependence occurs when a person needs to take the drug to function normally. Benzodiazepines, in particular, have a high risk for the development of physical dependence. Signs of benzodiazepine dependence include the following:

  • Feelings of being unable to cope when the drug is not being used
  • Inability to stop using the medication
  • Tolerance to the medication’s effects
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not taken

Often, those with benzodiazepine dependence will experience a wide variety of symptoms when the drug is not taken. These withdrawal symptoms might develop as anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, hypersensitivity to pain, tremors, muscle aches, and headache. These symptoms can be highly distressing. Because of the high risk of dependence and tolerance, benzodiazepines should only be used as a short-term treatment. Fortunately, the other classes of drugs used to treat anxiety disorders are not commonly associated with the development of dependence.

Get Help for Anxiety Medication Addiction

If you or a loved one is addicted to anxiety medications, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatments for anxiety medication addiction.