Who Can Prescribe Anxiety Medication?
By Team 1AND1
Almost everyone experiences anxiety at one time or another. However, let’s get one thing straight — occasional anxiety and nervousness is not the same as an anxiety disorder. Some individuals are diagnosed with one or more types of anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or phobias. In many of these cases, anxiety medication is an important part of finding relief. However, you can’t pick up anxiety medication from a local grocery store. Because anxiety medications are powerful and use potent ingredients/drugs, they can only be prescribed by specific, licensed medical professionals. Today, let’s explore who can prescribe anxiety medication and who you should contact if you think anxiety medication may help you.
Why Might You Need Anxiety Medication?
Anxiety medication is sometimes necessary if you experience severe anxiety symptoms. Alternatively, anxiety medication could help if you believe you are suffering from one or more anxiety disorders or if you have been diagnosed with one or more anxiety disorders.
After evaluating your symptoms, doctors and other mental health professionals can diagnose you with certain anxiety disorders. Some of the most common anxiety symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Excessive anxiety or worry that is difficult to control and ignore
- Fears of specific situations, objects, or experiences
- Muscle tension
- Irritability or mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Panic attacks, which may include sweating, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and more
- Avoidance of places, things, or individuals you feel may trigger an anxiety or panic attack
Note that you must have an official diagnosis of an anxiety condition or anxiety symptoms in order to receive prescription anxiety medication. You cannot diagnose yourself. Therefore, it’s a good idea to speak to your general practitioner doctor or a specialist to get diagnosed right away if you believe you are suffering from the effects of an anxiety disorder.
When you connect with a healthcare provider, they may assess your symptoms by:
- Having you complete tests
- Having you complete screening tools
- Asking you questions
After it is determined that you have an anxiety disorder, your healthcare provider may recommend different treatment options, potentially including anxiety medication.
Medication vs. Therapy: What Should I Know?
While anxiety medication can be helpful, it’s not the only means of treating anxiety or anxiety-related symptoms. Therapy is often recommended for many different anxiety disorders. It is frequently a potent treatment for mild to moderate anxiety or anxiety disorders.
However, your healthcare provider may recommend a combined treatment including therapy and anxiety medication if your condition/disorder is severe and significantly affects your day-to-day life.
You might be prescribed one or several different anti-anxiety medications depending on your diagnosis. These may include:
- Antidepressants like buspirone. These are sometimes prescribed for chronic anxiety conditions
- Benzodiazepines and beta-blockers, which are prescribed for acute anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Other anti-anxiety medications
Who Can Legally Prescribe Anxiety Medication?
Regardless of your exact diagnosis and medication needs, you may only receive legitimate prescriptions from licensed healthcare professionals. Not every healthcare professional can legally prescribe anxiety medication to patients. Generally, the healthcare professional must:
- Be licensed to prescribe medication in general
- Have an education on anxiety medication and its effects
You could meet with a healthcare provider remotely and receive a prescription medication in some circumstances. However, some medications, like benzodiazepines, have to be prescribed through in-person visits. That’s because certain medications are controlled substances.
There are five types of doctors or healthcare professionals who can prescribe anxiety medications in general.
1. Primary Care Physicians
Primary care physicians or PCPs are trained in general medical practices. They can sometimes prescribe medication for mild anxiety, though they cannot always prescribe medications like benzodiazepines.
If your anxiety is moderate to severe, your PCP will likely recommend you see a psychiatrist, especially if you experience other mental health conditions alongside your anxiety symptoms, like depression. In many circumstances, the comfort level you have with your primary care provider will determine whether you receive a prescription from them or if you are referred to a specialist.
Psychiatrists are advanced medical professionals with specialized degrees. They have training in psychiatry or mental health medication. As a result, they can offer therapy and prescribe psychiatric medication, such as anxiety medication.
If your anxiety disorder or symptoms are severe enough, you may be referred to a psychiatrist for joint medication and therapy treatments.
3. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners
Psychiatric nurse practitioners or NPs are specially trained nurses who have extra training in psychiatry. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are not medical doctors. But they are still allowed to prescribe anxiety medications. Depending on your state and the NP, they may also be licensed to offer therapy.
OBGYNs can prescribe anxiety medication under specific circumstances. For example, if you are dealing with postpartum depression, anxiety related to pregnancy, menopause, other hormonal changes, or similar conditions, your OBGYN may prescribe you anxiety medication to treat the symptoms.
However, OBGYNs cannot typically prescribe anxiety medication if they have generalized anxiety or another non-OBGYN-related condition.
Psychologists can occasionally prescribe anxiety and other medications. Under most circumstances, psychologists can conduct psychological assessments and provide talk therapy only. They are not normally licensed to prescribe any types of medications.
However, in Iowa, Illinois, Idaho, New Mexico, and Louisiana, psychologists are allowed to take specialized training courses in psychiatry. Once licensed, they can prescribe medication to their patients under specific circumstances.
Where Can You Get Refills of Anxiety Medication?
Like most medications, anxiety medications are meant to be taken regularly. After your initial prescription appointment, your medication provider should ask you to return for a follow-up appointment after several days and/or weeks.
Depending on your medication schedule, you may be offered a refill of your anxiety medication. You may also refuse a refill if your symptoms are under control. For example, if you work with a psychiatrist, they will likely perform an examination and see whether continued medication is best for your treatment plan.
During these appointments, you’ll also be given the opportunity to ask for a change in dosage or type of medication. You cannot get refills of anxiety medication aside from your follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider(s). Therefore, anyone experiencing anxiety symptoms or disorders should attend follow-up appointments promptly to receive prescription refills.
If you can’t attend a follow-up appointment, speak to your healthcare provider so they can send you a refill before you run out of your current medication. It can be dangerous to suddenly stop taking certain strong medications, as this may cause uncomfortable or negative withdrawal symptoms.
Can You Get Over the Counter Anxiety Medication?
At the time of this writing, there are no FDA-approved anxiety medications you can receive over-the-counter or OTC. You cannot refill or try another anxiety medication by visiting a local pharmacy or drugstore.
You may be able to supplement your anxiety medication if you are about to run out through natural supplements or remedies for anxiety symptoms. These can include magnesium supplements, passionflower, certain essential oils via aromatherapy, and more.
However, you should speak to your healthcare provider before trying any ancillary supplement or natural remedy, especially if you plan to do so in conjunction with your anxiety medication. Anxiety medications can interact with natural remedies in a variety of ways. The last thing you want to do is accidentally exacerbate your symptoms or cause yourself unintentional side effects.
Be Your Healthiest Self With 1AND1 Life
At the end of the day, anxiety medication is just one of many tools available to you to help you overcome anxiety symptoms. Eating well, practicing mindfulness, and pursuing holistic wellness may all help you cope with anxiety.
If you feel that anxiety medication can be helpful, don’t hesitate to contact a medical healthcare professional right away. The right professional can prescribe you medication and provide you with ancillary services, like therapy or medical attention.
For everything else, 1AND1 Life may be able to help. We’re dedicated to helping people just like you become at least 1% better every day. If you or a loved one are dealing with anxiety, check out our article on how to cope with anxious feelings in any situation. Anxiety can be tough, but we are here to support you.
About prescribing psychologists | APA Services
Anxiety Medication | HelpGuide.org