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Are Anxiety Medications For Teens Dangerous? 

teen with anxiety

Anxiety is a normal emotion that is unavoidable for most people to experience at some point in their lives. In situations where a young person’s anxiety is debilitating and/ or interferes with his or her ability to properly function in his or her daily life, it may be indicative of an anxiety disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), anxiety disorders include disorders that share features of excessive fear and related behavioral disturbances. These include separation anxiety disorder, selective mutism, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), substance/ medication-induced anxiety disorder, and anxiety disorder due to another medical condition. Though antianxiety medications are frequently used to treat symptoms related to anxiety disorders, they may also be used to treat symptoms associated with other mental health disorders. 

Types Of Antianxiety Medications

There several types of antidepressant medications, each with respective risks, benefits, and appropriate uses, which include the following, as provided by the Mayo Clinic

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): work by slowing the re-absorption of serotonin (the neurotransmitter known to help with mood regulation and anxiety) in one’s the brain. Common examples of SSRIs used to treat anxiety include, but are not limited to:
    • Celexa (citalopram)
    • Lexapro (escitalopram)
    • Prozac (fluoxetine)
    • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): work by reducing reabsorption of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in one’s brain. They can be prescribed to treat anxiety, depression and some chronic pain conditions. Common examples of SNRIs that are used treat anxiety include:
    • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
    • Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): are prescribed less frequently as they are an older class of antidepressants that can cause more side effects than other options. Some examples of TCAs that are used to treat anxiety include:
    • Tofranil (imipramine)
    • Elavil (amitriptyline)
    • Pamelor (nortriptyline) 
  • Benzodiazepines: a type of sedative that alleviates muscle tension and can reduce some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. They are often prescribed to help manage symptoms associated with short-term anxiety. Common examples of benzodiazepines that are used to treat anxiety include:
    • Xanax (alprazolam)
    • Valium (diazepam)
    • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
    • Ativan (lorazepam)

Are They Safe?

There are a variety of treatment options for young people struggling with anxiety, and for those that are professionally diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional, treatment may include the use of certain antianxiety medications. As is true with taking any type of medication there are associated risks. The specific risks will vary from person to person, as they will depend on several contributing factors (i.e. the teen’s health history, the presence of any additional mental health ailments, if the young person engages in substance abuse, genetics, etc.). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require antidepressant medications to clearly display a black box warning indicating the possibility of increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors when taken by some individuals under the age of 25. If left untreated, a young person struggling with an anxiety disorder is at an increased risk for developing a plethora of adverse short and long-term effects. Depending on the individual, and when taken exactly as prescribed, antianxiety medications can be incredibly effective in reducing the symptoms of a young person’s anxiety disorder. 

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at or through our contact form.

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