Teen Anxiety: 4 Medications to Consider


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It’s normal for parents to grapple with uncertainty, fear of making the wrong choice, and external pressures regarding decisions about their teen’s mental health journey. Sorting through information about anxiety medication options for your teen can be particularly overwhelming. Educating yourself about anxiety medication can help alleviate some of these concerns and help you feel prepared to have an informed discussion with your teen’s care team.

Parents of teens struggling with anxiety have a lot to consider when it comes to treatment options. Collaborating with mental health professionals who can provide expert guidance tailored to your teen’s specific needs is essential. This article explains why medication is a crucial part of some individuals’ anxiety treatment plans and discusses four anxiety medications commonly prescribed.

Anxiety medication: When is it recommended for teens?

Anxiety disorders are pervasive among adolescents. Nearly 1 in 3 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 experience one. Anxiety often refers to generalized anxiety disorder. But it’s also possible for them to be diagnosed with panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

A licensed clinical therapist can help your teen get to the root of their anxiety and develop the skills and coping mechanisms they need to manage their anxiety in the future. If the therapist formally diagnoses them with an anxiety disorder, they will likely prescribe medication as one of the first courses of action.

Teens are prescribed anxiety medication if:

  • They have persistent or worsening anxiety symptoms
  • They’re unable to manage their anxiety on their own
  • They have physical symptoms caused by anxiety, such as gastrointestinal issues
  • They’re having anxiety attacks

Teen anxiety medication: 4 SSRIs to know

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a class of antidepressant medications commonly prescribed to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorders
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

SSRIs work by increasing the levels of serotonin — a neurotransmitter involved with regulating mood, emotions and sleep — in the brain. It may take several weeks for the full therapeutic effects of SSRIs to become apparent. Side effects can vary but include nausea, insomnia, drowsiness and changes in appetite. Discontinuation should only be done under medical supervision. 

The following SSRIs are commonly prescribed to teens struggling with anxiety disorders:

  • Lexapro (escitalopram) — Lexapro is FDA approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in adolescents and teens aged 12 to 17. The side effect profile of Lexapro is generally considered favorable, and some individuals may experience fewer side effects compared to other SSRIs. 
  • Zoloft (sertraline) — Zoloft is not prescribed for GAD but is FDA approved for the treatment of MDD, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
  • Luvox (fluvoxamine) — Luvox is FDA approved for the treatment of OCD and SAD in children aged 8 to 17 as it alleviates persistent thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
  • Prozac (fluoxetine) — Prozac is FDA approved for the treatment of various mental health conditions, including MDD, panic disorder, OCD, bulimia nervosa and PMDD.

Lightfully Teen provides multidimensional support for teens struggling with anxiety

Anxiety is a complex and multifaceted condition influenced by various factors. At Lightfully Teen, each client receives a personalized treatment plan consisting of integrated interventions. Programming is designed not only to manage and mitigate anxiety symptoms but also to address the underlying factors that are contributing to the maintenance of teens’ anxiety disorders. In addition to therapy and medication management, parents can be assured their teens will gain valuable coping skills, individualized care and ongoing family therapy.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step in your teen’s mental health journey, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of them.

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