Are Anxiety Medications Safe For Teens? (2023)

All teenagers are nervous sometimes. Tension before a date, anxiety before an exam, and nervousness before a big presentation are normal. But sometimes teenagers experience so much anxiety that it interferes with their day-to-day work.

Parents of anxious teenagers, as well as the teenagers themselves, are often desperate for help. How do you know when anxiety has reached a level that requires treatment? Or maybe you have questions about whether anxiety medication is safe for this age group.

This article covers some ways to identify when teens may need anxiety treatment. It also includes information about anxiety medications for teens, their possible side effects, and medication-related safety warnings.

When should you seek treatment for adolescent anxiety?

There are many different types of teenage anxiety, including:

  • generalized anxiety
  • PANIC Syndrome
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • separation anxiety
  • social anxiety

Anxiety becomes problematic when it interferes with an adolescent's social, professional, or academic performance. Here are some examples of when a teen might benefit from anxiety treatment:

  • The teenager thinks that everyone is always watching him. As a result, they refuse to eat lunch in the cafeteria and avoid speaking in class.
  • The teenager survived a near-fatal car crash on a rainy night. A few months later, they still have nightmares and flashbacks. They also refuse to get into a car when it's raining.
  • The teenager had panic attacks. They fear there might be a panic attack at school, so they refused to go.

About 60% of adolescents with an anxiety disorder go untreated.but fearEstreatable along withCognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)- also known as talk therapy - medication is also an effective treatment for anxiety in adolescents.

Using medication to treat anxiety

prescription drugsIt can be useful in treating anxiety disorders. They are also often used in connection with CBT.

Research studies show that a combination of CBT and medication works better for children than either treatment alone.However, if adolescents have mild to moderate dysfunction, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends delaying medication use.

As with all medications, prescriptions for treating anxiety carry risks. However, they are prescribed when a doctor decides that the benefits of the drug outweigh these risks.

How to recognize anxiety symptoms in children?

Types of Anxiety Drugs for Teens

Finding the right anxiety medication that works for your teen can be difficult. Here are some that a doctor might prescribe.


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)are the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications in children and adolescents. They improve mood by blocking reabsorptionSerotonin- a neurotransmitter that helps regulate anxiety, worry and stress - in the brain.

Common SSRIs used to treat anxiety disorders in adolescents include:

  • Celexa (Citalopram)
  • Lexapro (Escitalopram)
  • Prozac (Fluoxetin)
  • Zoloft (sertralina)

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may be prescribed if SSRIs are not having the desired effect. Like SSRIs, SNRIs affect neurotransmitters in the brain. They block the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. SNRIs can drugs such asCymbalta (Duloxetine)miEfexor XR (Venlafaxine).

These types of medicines can take up to 8 weeks to work.If the adolescent tolerates the drug well and does not get the desired results, the dose can be increased after a few weeks.

The benefits of antidepressants may outweigh the risks for teens


While SSRIs and SNRIs are most commonly used to treat anxiety in adolescents, other prescriptions can also be used.Benzodiazepineare the second most common type of medicationand may be prescribed to adolescents with severe anxiety.

Drugs in this category include:

  • Klonopin (Clonazepam)
  • Valium (Diazepam)
  • Xanax (Alprazolam)

Benzodiazepines tend to be short-term treatments and are prescribed less frequently because they carry some additional risks. For example, adolescents can become dependent on them and benzodiazepines can be used improperly. Stopping them suddenly can also cause itwithdrawal symptomsor even seizures.

(Video) When Should an Anxiety Disorder Patient Take Medication?

Other medications

From time to time, doctors may prescribe other medications to treat anxiety. This can include prescription medications such asAntihistaminesB. SSRI antidepressants, hydroxyzine or atypical antipsychotics.The exact medication prescribed may vary depending on the teenager's diagnosis, the severity of the anxiety, and other factors.

Side effects of SSRIs and SNRIs

Many teens have no side effects from taking SSRIs or SNRIs. Those who do usually find the effects mild and generally wear off within the first few weeks of treatment.

The most common side effects of SSRI and SNRI anxiety medications in teenagers are:

  • dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • heavy sweating
  • Headache
  • nausea

Other possible side effects may include:

  • changes in sexual function
  • Called
  • insomnia
  • Appetitverlust
  • fatigue

Parents and doctors should discuss possible side effects with teenagers so they know what to expect and can report any side effects that occur. If a medication isn't working or is causing serious side effects, your teen may need to switch medications.

FDA Warnings

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning in 2004 that antidepressants, which are commonly used to treat anxiety in adolescents (like many SSRIs and SNRIs), may be increasingsuicidal thoughts and behaviorin a small number of children and adolescents.

No suicides were reported in the studies leading to the warnings. However, in clinical trials, the rate of suicidal thoughts or behavior was 4% in patients receiving an antidepressant compared with 2% in those receiving placebo.

Research shows that warnings about antidepressant use among teens may have backfired. Before the FDA warnings (1990-2002), the number of suicide deaths dropped significantly. After the warnings (2005-2017) there was a sharp drop in treatments, but suicide deaths increased significantly.

To address these concerns, a black box warning has been added to these drugs. Critics of this warning worry some children and teens are not getting the help they need because they fear the drugs are unsafe. To combat the additional risk to teenagers, parents and teenagers are educated on the potential risks, and teenagers are closely monitored through frequent screening.

If you have suicidal thoughts, contact yourNational Suicide Prevention LifelineNO988for the support and assistance of a trained consultant. If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, visit ourNational Database of Support Lines.

Can Antidepressants Make You Feel Worse?

A word from Verywell

If your teen is struggling with anxiety, see a doctor. Describe your concerns and ask about treatment options. While some general practitioners and pediatricians are happy to prescribe anti-anxiety medication for teens, others may refer children and teens to a psychiatrist.

Psychiatristare specialists in treating mental disorders. If you have questions about your teen's diagnosis or treatment plan, get a second opinion. Talking to another professional can help you determine the best course of action.

Always find out about any medications your child is taking. Read the leaflets, ask questions and talk to your doctor and pharmacist. Monitor your child's medication compliance and make sure they are taking it as directed. Skipping doses or doubling up on pills can be harmful.

Keep your teen's deadlines. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have and learn more about your teen's progress. With the right treatment and monitoring, teens can reduce anxiety.

How to deal with mental illness in adolescents

frequently asked questions

  • Are There Natural Remedies For Teens With Anxiety?

    The answer to this question is not entirely clear. Some herbal remedies have been found to help treat anxiety.However, many of these studies were only conducted on adult subjects. A 2018 study of 80 teens found that those who took saffron extract for eight weeks had greater improvement in their anxiety than a control group.However, the researchers also noted that these effects were not necessarily corroborated by the teens' parents. Consult a doctor before attempting to treat an adolescent's anxiety with medication or natural products.

  • How do you know if your teen is scared?

    Signs of teenage anxiety include excessive worry, persistent nervousness, and restlessness. You may also find your teen withdrawn or uncomfortable in social situations. Teenage anxiety can sometimes manifest itself physically in the form of muscle cramps, stomach problems, headaches and fatigue. An anxious teenager may even sweat, tremble, or startle easily.

  • How do I know if my teen needs anxiety medication?

    If your teen's anxiety is affecting their daily life, they may benefit from anti-anxiety medication. It is also beneficial to recognize the difference between normal anxiety and a potential anxiety disorder. Signs of an anxiety disorder in adolescents who may benefit from anxiety medication include anxiety that begins before puberty, anxiety about situations that would not normally trigger feelings of anxiety, unexplained physical symptoms, persistent anxiety symptoms, and avoidance of certain situations.

    Learn more:Nervous vs Anxious: What's the Difference?

  • How can I help a teen with anxiety and ADHD?

    About three out of ten children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have anxiety.If your teen has this dual diagnosis, both medication and behavioral treatments can help. Talk to a healthcare professional about the best options for her based on the type and severity of your anxiety. Talking to the teen's school can be helpful, as can support inside and outside the classroom.

(Video) Medication Used to Treat Anxiety/OCD in Kids

12 sources

(Video) 5 Things You Should Be Told When Starting Medication for Anxiety and/or Depression | SSRI/SNRI

Verywell Mind uses only quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. read ourspublishing processto learn more about how we review our content and keep it accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Ghandour RM, Sherman LJ, Vladutiu CJ, et al.Prevalence and treatment of depression, anxiety, and behavioral problems in American children.J Pediatrician. 2019;206:256-267. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.09.021

  2. Rosenbaum Asarnow J., Rozenman M., Carlson G.Medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy in pediatric anxiety disorders: No need for anxiety in anxiety treatment.JAMA Pediatrics. 2017;171(11):1038-9. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.3017

  3. Walter HJ, Bukstein OG, Abright AR, et al.Clinical practice guideline for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with anxiety disorders.J Am Acad Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2020;59(10):1107-1124. doi:10.1016/j.jac.2020.05.005

  4. United States National Library of Medicine.Antidepressants.

  5. Bushnell, G., Compton, S., Dusetzina, S., et al.Pediatric Anxiety Treatment: Initial use of SSRIs and other prescription anti-anxiety medications.Psychiatry J Clin. 2018;79(1):16m11415. doi:10.4088/JCP.16m11415

  6. Food and drug management.Suicide in children and adolescents treated with antidepressants.

  7. Lu CY, Penfold RB, Wallace J, Lupton C, Libby AM, Soumerai SB.Suicidal deaths among teens and young adults rise after US Food and Drug Administration antidepressant warnings and decline in treatment for depression.Psychiatrist Nada Clin Pract. 2020;2(2):43-52. doi:10.1176/appi.prcp.20200012

  8. Liu L, Liu C, Wang Y, Wang P, Li Y, Li B.Medicinal herbs for anxiety, depression and insomnia.Curr neurofarmaco. 2015;13(4):481-93. doi:10.2174/1570159X1304150831122734

  9. Lopresti A., Drummond P., Inarejos-Garcia A., Prodanov M.Saffron, a standardized saffron extract (Crocus sativus L.) for the treatment of adolescent anxiety and depressive symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.J mood disorder. 2018;232:349-57. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2018.02.070

  10. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.Your Adolescent - Anxiety and Avoidance Disorders.

  11. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry und American Psychiatric Association.Anxiety Disorders: Medication Guide for Parents.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Facts and Statistics.

Are Anxiety Medications Safe For Teens? (1)

VonAmy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She is also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and international best-selling author. His books, including 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, have been translated into more than 40 languages. His TEDx talk, The Secret to Getting Mentally Strong, is one of the most watched talks of all time.

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