Type of Anxiety Medications for Young Adults

What Anti-Anxiety Medications Are Appropriate for Young Adults?

Everyone deals with anxiety once in a while, but when it consumes your life, it becomes a mental health issue. Anyone, regardless of age, can be affected to the point where the condition impacts their routine, job, school, and/or relationships. Young adults often struggle with anxiety and need help to cope with it. Fortunately, medications can help, and we’ll discuss some that are recommended for such patients.

Who Is Considered a Young Adult?

Young adults are those ranging from 18 to 26 years old. This is a transitional period in life when a person is graduating from high school or college and expected to become independent, move out of their childhood home, and set out into the world. At this point, society expects you to become a productive member of society and settle into a career, find a mate, and start a family of your own.

All these things are new and sometimes scary to young adults, making them feel anxious. However, an anxiety disorder can be much more than that, and a young person can develop one that cripples their life.

What Causes Anxiety in Young Adults?

Being expected to undertake certain responsibilities can be overwhelming to a young adult whose brain is still developing. This can lead to excessive stress and anxiety. While anyone of any age can experience this, once these feelings consume you and interfere with your daily life, they become a problem.

Different factors contribute to young adults developing anxiety. In addition to brain development and high expectations, hormones may come into play. Younger people are also more prone to peer pressure, which increases their stress and can push their mental health over the brink.

Many young adults have difficulty coping with their anxiety symptoms and may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb them. Unfortunately, this usually worsens their condition, and it can lead to a substance use disorder (SUD) and a dual diagnosis.

Types of Anxiety Young Adults Might Suffer

Young adults can develop different types of anxiety. All of these conditions share some symptoms, but different types have unique ones as well. These are the most common forms of anxiety young adults can suffer.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most widely diagnosed; it causes extreme worry and stress about anything. People with GAD cannot control their symptoms and have difficulty coping with everyday matters. It’s one of the most challenging mental health conditions to live with, but medications and therapy can help control it.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common form of anxiety in young adults that causes irrational fear and worry about many things. A person with the condition may be compelled to perform the same actions repeatedly, worry about making the right decisions, and may touch the same things multiple times. Often, they’re at the mercy of their unreasonable worries. One of the most common examples of this form of anxiety is washing your hands countless times per day. A person with OCD is consumed by their condition and feels like it controls them.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a form of anxiety that occurs when a young adult experiences a random series of panic attacks. They can come on for no apparent reason and leave the person frozen with fear to the point where they might refuse to even leave their home. As one of the most common types of anxiety affecting young adults, panic disorder usually starts when a person is in their teens. Women are also more likely to develop it than men. Panic disorder triggers the body’s fight-or-flight mode but as an overreaction to ordinary situations where there’s no danger.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects young adults who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. This could include any number of things, such as a near-death experience, active combat, a natural disaster, or a violent crime. People with PTSD often have trouble dealing with what they experienced or witnessed and find themselves at a standstill until they can learn to cope. This form of anxiety can last for many years, interfering with everyday life.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a condition that causes a person to fear being away from someone they feel attached to or losing someone very close to them. This form of anxiety is more common in children but can affect young adults as well. With this condition, a person experiences excessive worry when they are separated from an attachment figure, so they might feel unable to go anywhere. Many young adults with separation anxiety disorder also have autism spectrum disorder.

Social Anxiety

Many young adults suffer from social anxiety disorder, a condition that causes extreme nervousness and stress in social situations. Also known as social phobia, this type of anxiety usually starts in the preteen or teen years and can continue into early adulthood. People who have it have trouble speaking in public, engaging with strangers, and even using public bathrooms. Social anxiety can affect a person’s daily life and cause someone to fear offending others, being embarrassed or judged, or being the center of attention. Being in settings like parties, classes, offices, and others where multiple people congregate causes excessive anxiety.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Young adults with anxiety may experience certain symptoms regardless of their specific mental health condition. Those that commonly occur with all types of anxiety include:

  • Panicky feelings
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cold and clammy hands
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tense muscles

A person with severe anxiety may also experience:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Faster breathing or hyperventilation
  • Panic attacks
  • Tingling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive urination

What Anti-Anxiety Medications Can Young Adults Take?

Different types of anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed to young adults who suffer from anxiety. Prescriptions can vary based on the specific condition and its severity, among other factors. These are the most common anti-anxiety medications appropriate for young adults.

Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants, but they are also considered effective for treating generalized anxiety disorder. This category of drugs includes citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline. They prevent the brain’s nerve cells from reabsorbing serotonin, the chemical responsible for regulating moods.

SSRIs aren’t effective for everyone. It can take up to two to six weeks to feel their effects when they do work. Unlike other anti-anxiety drugs, they don’t carry the risk of dependency.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may also be prescribed to young adults struggling with anxiety. They work by reducing serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain and must be taken for a few weeks before they begin managing anxiety symptoms. These drugs include duloxetine and venlafaxine.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are similar to SSRIs. They work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin and norepinephrine, making them an appropriate treatment for some young adults with anxiety disorder. Amitriptyline, imipramine, and nortriptyline are a few examples of these drugs.


Benzodiazepines are sedatives that are sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety. This class of drugs includes alprazolam, chlordiazepoxide, diazepam, and lorazepam. They are meant to be taken on an as-needed basis and shouldn’t be used long-term because they have a higher risk of dependency. Benzodiazepines are also more likely to become ineffective when taken over time. They work by calming the physical symptoms of anxiety and take one to two hours to take effect. Sometimes, these drugs are prescribed along with SSRIs until the latter becomes effective.


Buspirone is a drug often prescribed to ease anxiety in young adults on a short- or long-term basis. It’s considered a better anxiety medication than benzodiazepines because of its lower risk of dependency. It works by affecting the serotonin receptors in the brain to calm anxiety symptoms, but it lacks the sedative effects typical of the other drugs. These factors make buspirone safer for young adults to take. However, its main use is to treat GAD, and it may not be effective at treating all types of anxiety.


Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine that is sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety symptoms. Young adults with GAD, panic disorder, or social anxiety may get some relief when taking it, and the drug can help people with insomnia get some sleep. Hydroxyzine is prescribed on a short-term basis alongside another drug.

Are Anti-Anxiety Medications Safe for Young Adults?

All medications carry some risks, and anti-anxiety drugs are no exception. Young adults with anxiety may experience certain side effects when taking any of these treatments. The most common are

  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in sexual functioning

Some young adults who take anti-anxiety drugs may experience more severe side effects like suicidal thoughts and actions. Because of those risks, it’s important to visit your doctor regularly so that doses or medication types can be modified if necessary.

When Should Young Adults Seek Help for Anxiety?

Anxiety disorder symptoms can range from moderately to severely consuming. If they interfere with your regular activities multiple times per week, it’s best to consult with a doctor so they can prescribe medication and create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

A doctor can diagnose your condition by asking questions and giving you a physical exam. Then, based on your anxiety type and the severity of your symptoms, they can prescribe medication for short- or long-term use. The doctor will have you return for periodic checkups to determine whether your symptoms are under control or if you need a different dosage or drug.

Young adults with anxiety often respond well to a combination of anti-anxiety medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which works by addressing negative thoughts and teaching you to change your response to something positive. Once you learn healthier ways to react to situations that cause you anxiety, you can better manage your symptoms.

Anxiety can consume your life, but help is available so you can take back control. If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, medication alone might not be enough. The National Depression Hotline can connect you with programs and therapy to understand the root of your unhealthy thoughts and behaviors so that you can move beyond them. Call (866) 629-4564 today to get started.


Medically Reviewed By:

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

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