Anxiety disorders: a comprehensive review of pharmacotherapies

Mt Sinai J Med. 2008 May-Jun;75(3):248-62. doi: 10.1002/msj.20041.


This article reviews the evidence from randomized, placebo-controlled trials and meta-analyses of pharmacological treatments of the following anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. There is evidence from multiple randomized, placebo-controlled trials to support the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors as first-line pharmacotherapy in these disorders, and a number of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have received US Food and Drug Administration approval for these indications. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are now emerging as first-line treatments for these anxiety disorders alongside the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and have been US Food and Drug Administration-approved for some of these indications as well. Benzodiazepines are also effective treatments for anxiety disorders, and although this medication class has the advantage of a rapid onset of action, their use is limited by their potential for abuse and lack of antidepressant properties. In addition to reviewing the clinical trials that have investigated the anxiolytic effects of these commonly used medications, we review the evidence for novel uses of other agents, including anticonvulsants and atypical antipsychotics, in anxiety disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Panic Disorder / drug therapy
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / drug therapy


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Benzodiazepines