Anxiety: Drug Therapy

C. K. Haas, A. Shekhar, A. W. Goddard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


The principle anxiety disorders recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, represent a significant mental health concern throughout the world; they result in marked decrease in quality of life, impairment in functioning, and loss of productivity. Research that has begun to highlight the various components of the fear circuit aids in understanding the mechanism of action of the medications currently used to treat anxiety disorders, and it facilitates the development of new pharmacologic agents. The medications used to treat anxiety disorders are thought to modify dysfunction within the fear circuit, thereby producing anxiolysis. The level of responsiveness to treatment of the anxiety disorders varies, with panic disorder being the most responsive to treatment and posttraumatic stress disorder being the most resistant to treatment. The other anxiety disorders fall within this spectrum. The discoveries of the benzodiazepines and imipramine in the late 1950s heralded the modern era of biological treatment of the anxiety disorders. The next landmark progress for anxious patients was the discovery of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in the 1980s. Despite these advances in the treatment of anxiety disorders, better agents are needed. Ongoing research in the area of noradrenergic, glutamatergic, and peptidergic agents may provide future anxiolytic medications. This article explores the proposed mechanisms of action of the different classes of medications and then discuss treatment selection, efficacy, and implementation for the various anxiety disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Neuroscience
PublisherElsevier Ltd.
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780080450469
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Anxiety disorders
  • Anxiety drug therapy mechanisms
  • Anxiety pharmacotherapy
  • Fear circuit
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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  • Cite this

    Haas, C. K., Shekhar, A., & Goddard, A. W. (2009). Anxiety: Drug Therapy. In Encyclopedia of Neuroscience (pp. 499-508). Elsevier Ltd..