• Mar 18, 2023

Anxiety Medications: Are They Safe for Teenagers

Anxiety Medications: Are They Safe for Teenagers?

Therapy near me is an effective way to manage anxiety in teens.

Are you aware that one out of every three children between the ages of 12 and 18 is likely to develop an anxiety disorder? This statistic does not decrease as they get older, and in fact, over 40 million people in the US suffer from anxiety. Adolescence can be a stressful time for both teenagers and their parents. Regardless of the prevalence of this condition, not all parents are keen on giving their children anxiety medications. Among those who are diagnosed with anxiety, approximately 13% rely on medications as a treatment. 

Anxiety and Teenagers

Teenagers commonly experience anxiety due to the significant biological, physical, and social changes that they undergo. Even if they do not exhibit severe mental health symptoms, the pressure from these stressors can result in behaviors such as: 

  • Isolating themselves from social situations
  • Decreasing communication with parents and other authority figures
  • Skipping school
  • Decreasing academic performance
  • Engaging in impulsive, toxic, and unhealthy behavior
  • Intentionally putting themselves in dangerous and risky situations.

The following are the most common anxiety disorders that teenagers may develop:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent anxiety and worry about daily life events. A teenager with this disorder may appear stressed or worried frequently and experience the following symptoms: 

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Stomachaches

While it is natural for teenagers to experience some anxiety, excessive anxiety can be problematic. If a teenager is becoming ill before every test at school or constantly worrying about homework, they may have generalized anxiety disorder.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is the discomfort or nervousness felt in social situations, often leading to complete avoidance. Common signs of this disorder include only sticking with someone familiar, being afraid to try something new, or refusing to speak in group settings.

Teenagers may exhibit social anxiety in a unique manner compared to other age groups. They are usually hesitant, quiet, keep their heads down, or display nervous behaviors like fidgeting. Teenagers also refrain from participating in class, show reluctance to attend school, and feel uncomfortable on a daily basis at school. They may also avoid socializing with more than one friend at a time, speak softly, or avoid making eye contact, even outside of school.

Anxiety Medications for Teenagers

Mental health experts might suggest that teenagers combine psychotherapy with anxiety medication. Depending on the severity and type of symptoms, medication may be prescribed for either short-term or long-term use. The following are some  anxiety medications for teenagers.

SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)

The primary medication suggested as a treatment for anxiety in teenagers is a type of antidepressant referred to as SSRIs. This is because they have been demonstrated to be highly effective with only mild side effects. They are the most commonly prescribed medication for anxiety. SSRIs function by raising the level of serotonin in the brain, which is an important chemical that regulates mood.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs may not be as commonly prescribed for childhood anxiety as other medications due to their slightly higher incidence of side effects. SNRIs work on two distinct neurotransmitter systems in the brain. Typically, doctors opt to prescribe an SNRI as a secondary option for a child who does not respond to SSRIs, or when there is a positive history of SNRI response in a parent or sibling.


Benzodiazepines are not as commonly prescribed for anxiety in teens. Doctors prescribe it only for short periods of time due to the risk of dependency. Abrupt discontinuation of these medications can also lead to seizures.

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA)

In instances where SSRIs or SNRIs are not effective, a tricyclic antidepressant may be prescribed by your teen’s doctor. Clomipramine has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder and is sometimes used for social anxiety. However, TCAs have the potential to cause side effects such as constipation, sedation, and, in some cases, serious cardiac abnormalities. Those who take TCAs may need to undergo regular EKGs to monitor their cardiac health.

Side Effects of Anxiety Medications

There are several side effects of anxiety medication, some of which are not severe, but some can be quite serious. The following is a list of the most common side effects: 

  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • excessive sweating
  • headache
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • difficulty in sleeping
  • loss of appetite, and 
  • fatigue.

In addition, there are more severe side effects, such as an increased risk of suicide in teenagers who take these medications. Although no suicides occurred during the studies, some participants who were taking the medication experienced suicidal behavior and thoughts. As a result of this risk, the FDA has issued warnings on all of these medications. Unfortunately, since these warnings were put in place, there have been more suicide reports than before.

Anxiety Medications and Management

Talking to a therapist near me helps in dealing with anxiety.

As parents, it is important to know everything about any anxiety medications your teenager is taking. Read the provided information, ask questions, and communicate with the prescribing doctor and pharmacist. Always make sure that your teenager is taking the medication as prescribed and monitor their compliance. Skipping doses or taking more than the recommended amount could be dangerous.

You also need to attend your teen’s appointments and discuss any concerns you may have with the doctor to stay updated on your teenager’s progress. With appropriate treatment and close monitoring, teenagers can overcome anxiety.

Furthermore, experts suggest that you have regular conversations with your teenager who is taking or considering taking anxiety medication to understand the possible side effects they may experience. Remind them to inform you and their doctors of any side effects before deciding to discontinue the medication. It may take some trial and error to find the right anxiety medication for your teenager, and certain doctors may suggest genetic testing to determine which class of medications could be most effective.

So are anxiety medications safe for teenagers? You should discuss with your doctor if you want to let your child take anxiety medications. There are advantages and disadvantages to taking or not taking medications. Although anxiety medications can cause side effects, they can also significantly alleviate anxiety in teenagers. It is advisable to have a discussion with your doctor to determine the best course of action for your child. Ultimately, as the parent, the decision lies with you regarding what is best for your child.

If you are considering therapy along with anxiety medications, visit Mindshift Psychological Services. Check out their website to learn more about their treatment programs. Contact us at (714) 584-9700 to schedule an appointment.