Anxiety disorders affect millions of Americans, and anxiety and panic disorders can heighten the risk for sensitivity to the effects of certain medications.
Before taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications, if you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, you should speak with your health care provider to evaluate side effects and adverse reactions, and how they might contribute to existing anxiety.
Here are four medications that may worsen the symptoms of anxiety. Talk to your physician if you are taking them.
3. Beta Blockers
4. Migraine Medication
Decongestants are used in the management of allergies and upper respiratory infections to help diminish nasal congestion. While these drugs are highly effective in restoring an effective breathing pattern, they can lead to unwanted side effects.
These side effects are tolerated by people without anxiety. However, those affected by a panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder may need to consider alternative treatments for their nasal congestion.
In addition to anxiety sufferers, decongestant medications may not be suitable for people diagnosed with high blood pressure or glaucoma because they can worsen hypertension and raise intra-ocular eye pressure.
Side effects from decongestant medications may include a fast heart rate, rapid breathing, chest discomfort, increased sweating, blurred vision, and dizziness. All of these adverse reactions can mimic the symptoms of anxiety, and in sensitive individuals, may even precipitate panic attacks.
While oral decongestant drugs may be more likely to lead to unwanted side effects, decongestant nasal sprays may also cause side effects to a lesser extent.
Alternatives to using decongestant drugs include inhaling steam, massaging the sinuses, using warm compresses on the forehead and over the nasal bridge, eating spicy foods, and drinking hot beverages.
Like decongestants, antihistamines are used in the treatment of allergies and upper respiratory infections. They do not, however, treat nasal congestion, but are highly effective in treating a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and scratchy throat.
Antihistamines are known to cause extreme drowsiness; however, in certain people, they can cause insomnia, excitability, anxiety, restlessness, and a rapid heart rate. People with anxiety or panic disorder who wish to take antihistamines should start out with the lowest possible dose to help reduce the risk of side effects.
If side effects are not tolerated well or if they lead to increased anxiety, alternative treatments for allergies should be considered. These include using drug-free saline nasal sprays, keeping the doors and windows closed when outdoor allergens such as mold, pollen, and ragweed are high, and using an indoor air purifier.
3. Beta Blockers
Beta blockers are used in the treatment of high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, migraine headaches, hyperthyroidism, and chest pain. They are also prescribed to help reduce the risk for a second heart attack, and in some cases, to treat the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder.
While beta blockers such as propranolol are very effective in relieving the physical symptoms of anxiety such as a fast heart rate, excessive sweating, and shaking, they can sometimes cause an abnormal heart rate or rhythm, very low blood pressure, pain or tightness in the chest, and insomnia.
All of these adverse reactions can intensify symptoms of anxiety. Taking beta blockers can also interfere with the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone essential for recuperative sleep.
People with anxiety or panic disorder may notice a worsening of their symptoms when they fail to get enough restorative sleep.
4. Migraine Medication
Migraine pain medication may also raise the risk for increasing anxiety. A migraine drug known as ergotamine tartrate is usually taken at the first sign of an impending migraine headache. This medication will help lessen pain from an existing migraine; however, it will do little to prevent future migraines.
Ergotamine tartrate works by narrowing or constriction the blood vessels that are located around the brain, and it may also help correct abnormal blood flow that is often seen in those with migraines. While highly effective in treating the symptoms of a migraine, this medication can cause serious side effects which can worsen existing anxiety or cause a panic attack.
These side effects include extreme dizziness, vertigo or spinning sensations, fast heart rate, vomiting, and numbness and tingling sensations in the arms, legs, and face. In addition to prescription migraine medication, over-the-counter migraine medications can also heighten the risk for anxiety episodes.
Most migraine pain relievers contain caffeine, which can cause cardiac palpitations, sweating, shaking, and insomnia. People affected by migraine headaches should speak with their physicians about the best treatment options that are less likely to contribute to increased anxiety or panic attacks.
Anxiety Disorder Management Options
Dealing with anxiety disorder? The following will help you manage the symptoms of the illness.
1. Get therapy from a licensed cognitive behavioral therapist
2. Exercise regularly
3. Get proper nutrition
4. Get enough sleep
Anxiety and panic disorder can be debilitating. While monitoring the side effects of medications can help prevent an increase in symptoms, other treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep can also help dramatically reduce the frequency and intensity of anxious episodes.
Working with a qualified physician and experienced mental health professional will help ensure that the patient has the tools and skills to better manage the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.