When you hear the word ‘antihistamine’, the first thing that comes to mind is probably an over-the-counter allergy medication like Claritin or Benadryl. However, certain antihistamines can be used to treat more than just sneezing or a runny nose caused by seasonal allergies. One antihistamine, hydroxyzine, is even used to treat anxiety disorders.
Hydroxyzine (also sold under the brand name Vistaril) blocks the H1 histamine receptor and interacts with a subset of serotonin receptors, which produces a calming effect. As a result, it is primarily used to treat anxiety and tension, and is sometimes also used alongside other medications for anesthesia. Less commonly, it may be prescribed to treat allergic skin reactions, such as hives or rashes.
Why Might Hydroxyzine Be Used Over Other Anxiety Medications?
The antihistamine hydroxyzine isn’t the most well-known medication for anxiety disorders. Many doctors prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac or Zoloft first, due to the fact that these drugs are non-addictive and typically have minimal side effects. The downside of SSRIs is that they can take up to 6 weeks to become fully effective and may cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if a patient suddenly stops taking their medication. SSRIs can also cause decreased sexual satisfaction in some people and suicidal thoughts in some younger patients.
Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, are also options in the treatment of anxiety. Drugs in this class reduce anxiety quickly, but they can be addictive and may cause serious withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines may also cause memory problems. Due to the risks associated with benzodiazepines, they are not always prescribed for anxiety disorders and usually aren’t prescribed for any kind of long-term treatment.
Hydroxyzine is a good choice for many patients because it reduces anxiety quickly but is not addictive and does not cause withdrawal symptoms. It also does not carry the same risks for sexual dysfunction or suicidal thoughts as SSRIs. The most commonly reported hydroxyzine side effect is drowsiness, and this side effect usually goes away as the body adjusts to the medication.
If you are struggling with anxiety and have been looking for a medication with a low risk for adverse effects, consult your doctor to see if hydroxyzine is an option for you. If your doctor does prescribe this medication, follow his or her dosage instructions carefully, and be careful driving until you know whether this antihistamine makes you feel dizzy or drowsy. For more information and free coupons related to this medication, visit our Hydroxyzine Drug Page.