What Meds Might Cause Anxiety?

Anxiety can make you feel restless, nervous, and panicky even when you’re not in any danger. Sometimes, you can get these symptoms because of medications you’re taking for other health conditions. They may either make your existing anxiety worse or trigger the symptoms for the first time.

Medications can cause different side effects in different people. But some drugs  target the same parts of your body that play a role in anxiety symptoms. They include:

Medications With Caffeine

Some headache and migraine medicines include caffeine. It’s a drug that stimulates your nervous system, which can rev up your heart and blood pressure and make you jittery, nervous, and anxious. If you’re prone to anxiety, caffeine can heighten your symptoms.

You might have issues if you’re taking these meds for headache or migraine:

Corticosteroids

These are drugs that work like some of the hormones your body makes. They treat conditions like asthma, allergies, arthritis, and bronchitis. Doctors aren’t sure why, but these medicines can make some people irritable and anxious.

You may have symptoms of anxiety if you’re taking:

ADHD Drugs

Many medications for this condition are stimulants, meaning they rev up your brain. They also change the way your nerve cells send messages. Both of these things can make you restless and anxious, especially if you’re taking high doses.

Mood changes are a common side effect of these medications:

Asthma Medication

Some of these drugs can make mood disorders worse, such as depression and anxiety. Some bronchodilators, medicines that open up airways in your lungs, may also cause anxiety, even if you didn’t have it before. They include:

  • Albuterol. It’s common for albuterol to cause trembling or shakiness and, less commonly, racing heartbeats. All those can seem like the signs of a panic attack.
  • Salmeterol. Possible side effects include nervousness, sweating, fast heartbeat, and anxiety.
  • Theophylline. This drug has been around for decades, but fewer doctors prescribe it today.

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Thyroid Medicine

When your body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, you may lack energy, gain weight, or have trouble concentrating. But thyroid pills (Armour Thyroid, Nature-Throid, NP Thyroid) used to treat this condition, called hypothyroidism, can trigger anxiety, shakiness, and hyperactivity.

Seizure Drugs

Phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek) is a medication that calms the electrical activity that happens in the brain during a seizure. Sometimes doctors also prescribe it to control irregular heartbeats. But it can cause panic attacks, agitation, and anxiety.

Medicine for Parkinson’s Disease

Doctors often prescribe a combination drug, levodopa and carbidopa (Sinemet), to treat Parkinson’s. The extended-release capsule form of this drug (Rytary) can cause anxiety. Ask your doctor if another medication might be an option.

If your meds are causing you problems, ask your doctor about adjusting doses or switching drugs.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on June 20, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Advances in Psychiatric Treatment: “Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine.”

Cochrane Database System Review: “Phenytoin versus valproate monotherapy for partial onset seizures and generalized onset tonic-clonic seizures.”

FDA: “Medicines in my Home: Caffeine and Your Body.”

International Journal of Child Health and Human Development: “Asthma and Mood Disorders.”

Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics: “Corticosteroid-related central nervous system side effects.”

Mayo Clinic: “Anxiety,” “Migraine,” “Prednisone and other corticosteroids.”

Parkinson’s Disease Foundation: “Prescription Medications.”

Psychiatry (Edgmont): “Real-World Data on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Medication Side Effects.”

UpToDate: “Theophylline use in asthma.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Albuterol (oral route),” “Salmeterol (Inhalation route),” “Thyroid,” “Phenytoin.”

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