Posted: 10/12/2017

Can You Use Antihistamine To Treat Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety_medication_concept

Antihistamines can be used to treat more than just itchiness and the sniffles

 

If you have any allergies you are probably familiar with antihistamines. You may know them as Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin or Allegra. Many antihistamines are available over the counter, and they provide short term relief for allergic reactions such as congestion, sneezing, and hives. These drugs work by blocking the body’s receptors for histamines, a chemical released by the immune system to combat foreign substances and protect damaged tissue.

 

These histamines inflame nearby tissue, opening blood vessels and allowing blood flow to move quickly to the area. Unfortunately, that inflammation also causes the unwanted effects of nasal congestion and itchy or painful skin conditions. Because histamines are also utilized in regulating the body’s wakefulness, it can also contribute to symptoms such as drowsiness and dizziness. If you are a chronic allergy sufferer, you are also probably aware that this is one of the most common side effects of antihistamines and it is why you usually need a nap after taking drugs such as Benadryl (although newer drugs are often marketed as “non-drowsy.”)

 

There are many subsets of antihistamines that block different histamine receptors, and each has slightly different effects and side effects. Newer drugs target the receptors that are not involved in sleep regulation, which is how they avoid the drowsiness side effect. However, because of the way these receptors react with other chemicals in the brain, antihistamines can be used to treat more than just itchiness and the sniffles.

 

So How Do Antihistamines Treat Anxiety?

Experiencing anxiety from time to time is a part of life - and can be a positive thing when it allows you to think on your feet more quickly in a new situation or spend more time on a problem you are facing at work. There is a difference, however, between feeling occasionally anxious as a normal response to a stressful situation and a full blown anxiety disorder. There are a few different types of anxiety disorders, all of which interfere with daily life and can get worse over time. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and specific phobias are all types of anxiety disorders. The most common anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), associated with “the presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities.” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (more commonly referred to as the DSM-5,) the manual doctors use to diagnose mental health disorders.

 

While the exact cause of anxiety in the brain is still unclear, anxiety disorders have been linked to an imbalance of the chemical serotonin, your brain’s natural mood stabilizer. A lower than average level of serotonin in the brain is observed in patients with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. One of the subsets of antihistamines, Hydroxyzine, blocks the H1 receptor, a histamine receptor of the central nervous system. However, it also blocks serotonin receptors in the same area. By blocking serotonin receptors, more serotonin stays in the bloodstream, temporarily raising serotonin levels and inducing a state of sedation.

 

When Would An Antihistamine Be Prescribed for Anxiety?

The most common drugs prescribed for anxiety disorders are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) because they directly and continuously increase serotonin levels, are non-addicting and are unlikely to have side effects. Zoloft and Prozac are the most well-known SSRIs. The drawback of these drugs is that they can take up to 6 weeks to become effective and generally have bad withdrawal symptoms. They are most often prescribed for long-term use with close supervision from a doctor or mental health professional.

 

Another class of drugs commonly prescribed for anxiety are benzodiazepines. These drugs, such as Xanax and Valium, enhance the chemical that reduces brain activity, providing a relatively strong sedative effect. Unlike SSRIs, benzodiazepines are fast acting but can be addictive and cause unwanted symptoms such as memory loss and depression. The risk of dependence on benzodiazepines is greater than any other anxiety treatment because of the “high” created as a result of its abuse. This class of drugs also can cause bad withdrawal symptoms, and should only be used as-needed, for quick symptom relief.

 

Antihistamines, on the other hand, are ideal for quick, periodic anxiety relief. They have a noticeable calming effect and are non-addictive with practically no withdrawal symptoms when taken as directed. The risks involved are mainly due to the drowsiness associated with most antihistamines, so care should be taken before driving or operating machinery until you know how the drug affects you.

 

Should I Ask My Doctor About Hydroxyzine?

Hydroxyzine is not intended to be used for more than a couple of months at a time, so if you are looking for long-term anxiety treatment, a SSRI or a non-pharmaceutical therapeutic treatment may be a better option. Hydroxyzine is a good option for patients with periodic, short-term anxiety, especially if you have a history of chemical dependence that would make the addictive benzodiazepines a risk.

 

If this applies to you, you may want to talk to your doctor about the drug Vistaril, the brand name for hydroxyzine. It is sold in either capsule or liquid form. Side effects to watch out for are dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, blurred vision and dry mouth. Contact your doctor if you experience any of the more serious side effects of seizures, tremors, confusion and restless facial muscle movements. As with any drug, tell your doctor before use about any pre-existing medical conditions or if you are pregnant.

 
By Emily Heller

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About the HelpRx.info Blog

HelpRx.info is staffed by experts in the prescription medication industry. Get the latest health, medical news and pharmaceutical news that can save you money and allow you to take charge of your healthcare. With frequent updates about the prescription drug industry as well as medicine news, you'll gain an insider look into the industry and learn more about how to get the best price on your prescriptions while not sacrificing quality.

About HelpRx

Our discounts provide you access to negotiated prices on your prescription drugs at your local pharmacy. We can provide these because we're partnered with OptumRx, a BIG pharmacy benefit provider that provides prescription coverage for MILLIONS of people like you.

About ScriptRelief

Script Relief, the creator of the NPSN card and HelpRx discounts, helps consumers save an average of 50%, and up to 75%, off their prescriptions.

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