Is Anxiety Medication Bad for You?

If you’re one of the nearly 300 million people around the world struggling with some form of anxiety disorder, you’re not alone in wondering if there’s any way to treat it. We’re happy to say there are – from specific therapies to mindfulness exercises to drug-based solutions.

With that said, some people are apprehensive about taking prescriptions for anxiety. It’s natural to wonder if anxiety medications are bad for you or to wonder about the side effects of anxiety meds. Let’s go over some of the most well-known types and what you can expect if you use them.

At Your Counselling, we rely on therapeutic and behavioural treatments for anxiety rather than pharmaceutical ones, but we can still say this with confidence: none of these options is “bad” for you when prescribed by a psychiatrist. Like any medication, they might have various side effects, but those are dependent on each individual’s physiology and are secondary to the main treatment effect.

Common Types of Anxiety Medication

Anti-Depressants: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Since depression and anxiety are often linked, some of the same treatments work for them both. These SSRIs and SNRIs are broadly effective for a lot of people and are among the most well-studied anxiety medications, often being included among the first line of treatment for many anxiety disorders.

These medications work by affecting the way certain hormones are transmitted and received in the brain, leading to the greater emotional and physiological regulation of symptoms.

Common brands of SSRIs include Celexa, Zoloft, Lexapro, and Paxil, while SNRIs you may know are Cymbalta, Effexor XR, and Pristiq.

The downside of this option is that it can take 4-6 weeks to build up to the necessary effective levels in the body. The side effects can also be noticeable, with nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and sodium deficiency being the most common.


Belonging to the tranquillizer family, these are relaxing medications that induce a full-body feeling of calm and happiness. They are known for working quickly and offering immediate relief, but they are not a good long-term solution because users can easily build tolerance and dependency.

Common brands of benzodiazepines are Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan.

Beta Blockers

Beta-blockers, like the name, suggests, block the effects of epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) – slowing down the speed and power of the heart and widening blood vessels to improve blood flow. They work quickly and are most often used to reduce social anxiety, because of the lack of drowsiness as a side effect.

However, because of the impact on a circulation, these can lead to low blood pressure or light-headedness. Beta-blockers are carefully regulated and are not suitable for everyone.

The most well-known beta blocker used for anxiety treatment is propranolol, a generic compound that is no longer used in any trademarked brands.

Buspirone (BuSpar)

BuSpar increases the amount of serotonin and dopamine in your brain, leading to more positive emotions and a greater overall sense of well-being. Many people report being able to think better and worry less after taking it.

However, BuSpar can lead to dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea, as the rush of these compounds to the brain can overload your system. Complications from alcohol, other drugs, or even grapefruit juice can also be of concern.


Primarily used as an antihistamine for allergies and itching, Vistaril has found a new purpose as an effective anti-anxiety medication as well. It’s a short-term option that helps reduce symptoms for the immediate future and for high-stress situations, such as preoperative preparations.

It’s been known to cause dry mouth, dizziness, blurred vision, constipation, confusion, and even convulsions (in rare cases).

Non-Medication Anxiety Treatments

Looking at some of those side effects, it’s easy to see why you might have reservations about using anxiety medications. That’s why, at the Your Counselling clinic, we believe in trying non-pharmaceutical therapies first. There have been countless studies over the past century or more that prove behavioural, dialogue, and cognitive approaches are very effective at treating anxiety disorders, and we employ a variety of them in our sessions. These include:

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (accepting and learning to change your relationship with negative thoughts, memories, urges, etc.)
  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (learning skills to manage and challenge problematic thinking and behaviour)
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (building skills in the areas of mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness)
  • Narrative Therapy (an approach that separates clients from their problems and creates a healthier, more empowered perspective)
  • Supportive Psychotherapy (a combination of techniques to help clients recognize, understand, process, and alleviate distress)
  • Accelerated Resolution Therapy (a client-controlled approach that uses relaxing eye movements and techniques to ‘rewire’ the brain and overcome negative or traumatic experiences)

Anxiety Therapy in Calgary

Choosing the best course of action to deal with an anxiety disorder isn’t always easy – it requires professional knowledge and a lot of consideration for your specific needs.

Luckily, getting help with that knowledge and guidance is much easier. You can simply contact us right here at Your Counselling to get started!

During our 15-minute free intro call, we’ll help you decide on what’s best for you – from choosing the right therapist and method to deciding whether in-person or remote sessions will be more effective. You don’t have to suffer through anxiety alone, and we look forward to helping you achieve the best quality of life possible!