Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications. You may benefit most from a combination of the two. It may take some trial and error to discover which treatments work best for you.


Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. It can be an effective treatment for anxiety.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. Generally a short-term treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on teaching you specific skills to gradually return to the activities you've avoided because of anxiety. Through this process, your symptoms improve as you build upon your initial success.


Several types of medications are used to treat anxiety disorders, including those below. Talk with your doctor about benefits, risks and possible side effects.

  • Antidepressants. These medications influence the activity of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) thought to play a role in anxiety disorders. Examples of antidepressants used to treat anxiety disorders include fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), imipramine (Tofranil), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), sertraline (Zoloft) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR). Citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro) also can be effective, but dosages of 40 milligrams (mg) a day of citalopram or 20 mg a day of escitalopram warrant discussion of risks versus benefits. Your doctor also may recommend other antidepressants.
  • Buspirone. An anti-anxiety medication called buspirone may be used on an ongoing basis. As with most antidepressants, it typically takes up to several weeks to become fully effective.
  • Benzodiazepines. In limited circumstances, your doctor may prescribe one of these sedatives for relief of anxiety symptoms. Examples include alprazolam (Niravam, Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan). Benzodiazepines are generally used only for relieving acute anxiety on a short-term basis. Because they can be habit-forming, these medications aren't a good choice if you've had problems with alcohol or drug abuse.

Treatment at Mayo Clinic: Children and teens

At Mayo Clinic, parents are thoroughly involved in their child's diagnosis and treatment sessions from beginning to end. Parents learn how to effectively support children during anxiety-inducing situations or periods. Mayo Clinic's Pediatric Anxiety Disorders Clinic provides advanced, evidence-based medical and psychological treatment for anxiety disorders.

Mayo Clinic child outpatient anxiety treatment

Your child or teen can receive cognitive behavioral therapy and medication management on an outpatient basis. Psychotherapy consists mainly of exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy. This treatment teaches children skills to manage their anxiety and teaches parents to effectively provide support. With these tools in place, the child and therapist develop a list of situations that cause the child to feel anxious. With the help of the therapist, the child then gradually faces these fears and learns how to manage them. Treatment typically consists of six to 10 weekly sessions.

Mayo Clinic intensive child anxiety treatment

Treatment for children and teens who have anxiety disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder is available in an intensive format for families unable to spend extended time at Mayo Clinic. Treatment can be provided in a 10-session format over five days. The goals of these intensive treatments are to:

  • Teach the child and parents to be experts on anxiety and how behavioral treatment works
  • Decrease the child's symptoms through successful completion of exposures to anxiety-inducing situations
  • Teach the child and parents how to conduct exposure therapy so that they can continue working at home

Follow-up care is provided by phone.

Apr. 09, 2014