27 Unexpected Side Effects of Anti-Anxiety Medications
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.
The decision to start, change or stop medication for your anxiety can be a difficult one, and some might worry the negative side effects will outweigh the benefits. Whether you’ve had a positive or negative experience — or no experience at all — it can often be good to know what others have been through. This way, we can all be a little more informed, or at least feel a little less alone.
Many people benefit from being on medication for their anxiety, but even when side effects are unexpected or embarrassing, it’s still important to talk to your doctor when they occur.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Almost every night I have the strangest, most vivid dreams I remember for the rest of the day.” — Nina L.
2. “My short-term memory has become absolutely terrible. I’ll literally completely forget entire conversations, movies I’ve watched and have trouble retaining new information at work. It is extremely frustrating.” — Melissa P.
3. “Word confusion. I mixed up words constantly when I started medication. Now it still happens, but less often. If I get excited or am not paying attention, my words jumble together more frequently. I have to slow down and really articulate my thoughts.” — Jenn P.
4. “Depression. My anxiety often masks other symptoms, so when that started to level off, I experienced depressive episodes for the first time in my life. Eventually it all evened out, but that initial side effect was brutal.” — Claire W.
5. “I best described it to my mother as my brain being dumped in a pool filled with murky water. I could barely get a grasp on a thought before it faded away.” — Mariana A.
6. “Extreme hunger and cravings for the strangest things.” — Debi D.
7. “It made me have to go to the bathroom a lot but didn’t touch my anxiety.” — Sarah P.
8. “Feeling completely numb. It’s great that my anxiety is relatively under control, but the cost is I just feel ‘meh’ all the time.” — Kristina W.
9. “Withdrawals! If I missed a dose I would see a noticeable difference the next day. And it changes depending on the medication. If I missed a dose sometimes I’d be super irritable the next day, or feel shaky and cloudy. I didn’t expect missing one dose to affect me that bad.” — Karly E.
10. “Thankfully [my medication] curbs the anxiety. But I get so irritable to where I’m annoyed with myself for being that irritable. On the flip side, I’m very hungry because of it!” — Chris S.
11. “When I was sleeping I woke up like five or six times during the night and every time I was so wet because I was sweating so much. I had really extreme dreams I couldn’t control and then started to sweat. So I woke up wet and cold so many times at night. I quit the medication cause I was sick of not getting to have a nice sleep.” — Anita S.
12. “I used to have nightmares in which people died in gruesome ways. Needless to say, I used to wake up feeling traumatized” — Francesca S.
13. “Terrible panic attacks to the point where I hyperventilated and passed out in public.” — Elliott R.
14. “Extreme Dependency. I have been on anti-anxiety medication for over two years. It gave me my life back. It seems now I can’t cope with my anxiety without this medication. It’s like I need this medication to live. If I miss even one dose my anxiety gets much worse.” — Kayden B.
15. “Instead of putting me to sleep it makes me hyper-energetic. I might start dancing or cooking to work off the energy — at three in the morning. Sometimes it goes further though. I start to lose my balance and sway wildly if I try to walk. I occasionally end up crashing into things and hurting myself. A less dangerous and hilarious side effect is me texting people when I’m sleepy and mixing words.” — Sophia D.
16. “When I first started meds, I had a physical reaction where my legs went numb quite often — every time I sat down. We never figured out why I had this reaction, but I got off that certain med pretty quickly.” — Hayley L.
17. “It gave me the strangest jitters, like when it’s cold and your teeth are chattering but really badly; [I] ended up chipping a few teeth. [I] was taken off them about two years ago and honestly sometimes my teeth still chatter for no reason.” — Jess B.
18. “Zaps of mild nerve pain in my shoulder/neck/back, especially if I miss a dose or take it late. It was a side effect I noticed when it started happening in the evening just before my best dose and it gave me a clue to ask my doctor about an increase in my prescribed dosage.” — Amy K.
19. “It actually increased my anxiety before having it’s intended anti-anxiety effects. Make sure to discuss the likelihood of paradoxical effects with your doctor before starting a new medication. Also discuss what to do if you should experience any negative effects.” — Linsey M.
20. “Excessive sweating. I mean sweat literally dripping down my back, scalp soaked, bra soaking wet! I also crave peanut butter and have very vivid, movie-like dreams. Despite all of that, I am still glad to be on it — I feel like it has given me life back!” — Charon Y.
21. “The horrible weight gain. [I] tried getting off it but I can’t. What’s worse, weight gain or the anxiety? It feels like both.” — Ariah L.
22. “Anger. Full on rage. It curbed my anxiety by replacing it with anger. I stayed on it for over two months before I couldn’t take it anymore.” — Ashley D.
23. “When I take mine I get nauseous and can’t eat for the rest of the day. But I only take it as needed, so it’s not that bad.” — Allison H.
24. “One of [my medications] caused extremely loud ringing in my ears — I couldn’t hear anything else.” — Chloe W.
25. “[I] shake. My hands have tremors ever since I started it, but my anxiety is much better now.” — Alhena R.
26. “Any time my doctor increased my dosage, I would have a day or two of feeling giddily happy and silly, to the point of acting loopy and strange. My mood would level off after a couple days though.” — Jane C.
27. “Feeling like I was floating next to my body as I did simple tasks.” — Jo A.
What was your experience like?
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
Getty image via Amanda Cassingham-Bardwell