How do Anti Anxiety Medications Work?

In our line of succession towards fighting Anxiety Disorders, this will be the next article. Here, we’ll talk about how anti anxiety medications work. Previously, we tried to understand what Anxiety Disorder is and what we can do about it. If you have not yet, we highly recommend our Anxiety FAQ and Yoga for Anxiety Relief articles. They explain the physical and chemical reactions that happen during an anxiety attack. Once thought to be a mental disorder, doctors now know that any form of anxiety disorder is a serious medical issue. A mental condition or memory may trigger the attack, but to overcome it, we must understand the physical and chemical reactions that occur in the body. We will also learn how antidepressants work.

Generally, therapies and natural healings can take care of it, but there are times when a patient may just not be able to help it. Therefore, some medical intervention is required. Here, we’ll not suggest a particular medication- you should consult your doctor for that. Rather, we’ll tackle how anti anxiety medications, A.K.A. Antidepressants, work. But first, we must have a good understanding on Neurotransmitters.

The Neurotransmitters

In the Anxiety FAQ, we had a glimpse of what Neurotransmitters are. Here, we will have a better understanding. First of all, Neurotransmitters are chemicals that signal the brain. Our brain keeps informed of any changes in the body through the signals it gets from the Neurotransmitters. For example, in the Pain Relief Section, we showed that if you have a cut, a chemical called ‘Prostaglandin‘ tells the brain, and our brain then reacts to fix the problem. The same was mentioned in the Weight Loss Section where we learned that ‘insulin‘, the hormone familiar to all diabetes patients, causes us to feel hungry. These are all Neurotransmitters. Without prostaglandin, we would not feel any pain and our brain won’t try to heal the cut. Without insulin, we would not feel hungry and die of malnutrition.

neurotransmitters and receptors
Credit: Wikipedia

Most of these chemicals are located in small pockets at the end of a Neuron (Brain cell). Don’t let that confuse you. Neurons are not just in the brain. They are spread all over the body like a web and we call it ‘The Nervous System‘. Our brain has the highest concentration of Neurons, so we call it the ‘Central Nervous System‘ or CNS. One end of a Neuron contains these pockets that release the chemicals. The other end of the next Neuron has the receptors that accept the chemicals and the signal is passed to the next and to the next until it reaches the brain. That’s why you don’t feel pain the moment you get cut. It takes about 1.5 to 2 seconds for the CNS to register the signal.

If all goes well, and the body is in balance, the excess Neurotransmitters get absorbed, and we go on with our lives.

The Two Types of Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are generally divided into two groups:

  • The Exciters: These type of transmitters triggers the brain to act. When released, our brain is compelled to do things. Insulin, Prostaglandin, Norepinephrine (Adrenalin), and Epinephrine are examples of such type of Neurotransmitters.
  • The Inhibitors: These are opposites. Inhibitors tend to stop the brain from acting. They counteract the Exciters. Melatonin, Serotonin, Endorphin, GABA, and Dopamine are examples of Inhibitors.

Simply put, when you are awake, working, or excited about going on vacation, it is the Exciters at work. However, when you are tired, sleepy, or sleeping, the level of Inhibitors rises in the body. All throughout the day, these balancing acts between Exciters and Inhibitors play out. We are in trouble when this balance is compromised.

What is Anxiety Disorder?

By now, you have probably understood in theory what Anxiety Disorder is. Patients suffering from this have lost “The Balance“. A “Trigger“, either physical or mental, causes an excessive flow of Exciters, especially Norepinephrine. Norepinephrine or Adrenalin is a ‘Fight or Flight‘ neurotransmitter. Ideally, Norepinephrine should request the brain for additional energy like when you are in danger and need to run. Our brain then increases the heart rate and burns calories fast to meet that energy need. Excessive flow, however, may cause mental imbalance, paranoia, aggression, panic, shock, seizures, and even heart attack if the body can’t take it.

How do Anti Anxiety Medications Work?

Anxiety treatments vary from person to person. It depends on the “Trigger“, age, and sex of the patient. A proper psychological evaluation is necessary before going ahead with the treatments. Yet, almost all antidepressants or anti anxiety meds act on the GABA receptors. GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is the chief CNS inhibitor. In other words, if GABA flows, we feel a lot relaxed. GABA is produced and received almost all over the body where there are Neuron cells. It can counteract the effects of Norepinephrine by metabolizing it and blocking its reception. As the chief, GABA also gets assists from Dopamine and Endorphins.

  • Dopamine is a reward hormone. It simply makes you feel good. Dopamine is released in huge quantities during and after sex, so you can understand how satisfying a feeling that is.
  • Endorphins (Endogenous + Morphine) are muscle relaxants. They are also excellent for numbing pains.

This class of anxiety meds that can increase the flow of GABA, Dopamine, and Endorphines are called Benzodiazepines. Alprazolam (Xanax), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Diazepam (Valium), and Klonopin (Clonazepam) are a few examples of this class. We can’t exactly tell which one or ones would suit you better. If you are suffering from any of the Anxiety Disorders, seek the help of your health care provider.

Furthermore, all the Benzo class drugs have addiction issues. Dopamine (The reward hormone) is unfortunately addictive. Talk to a professional if you think you need medications for your anxiety treatment. If not severe, regular physical exercise, eating healthy, and drinking a lot of water can remedy Anxiety Disorder. We also have an excellent article “Yoga for Anxiety Relief“. Please check it out.

Still, we understand that there are people out there with conditions but don’t have the necessary insurance and access to a proper doctor. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need the medications. Thanks to the internet, you can find a few reliable online pharmacies, from where you may purchase the necessary medications even without a prescription.

Anxiety Medications

So, this is how anti anxiety medications work. We hope this article helps. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or follow our Facebook or Twitter page to stay updated.

Melissa Wright

Melissa Wright is a medical journalist. Her concentration is innovations in medical science and technology. In colaboration with National Helath Institute and FDA, she keeps her ears open to hear and write about any new medical breakthrough around the world.

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