1. Health

Medications for Phobias

Learn About Your Options for Phobia Medications


Updated June 17, 2014

There are currently several types of medications that are prescribed for phobias. Here is a look at the most commonly prescribed medications.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are medications that work by affecting the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally produced chemical that is believed, among other functions, to affect mood and anxiety. SSRIs change the level of serotonin to control the mood. For this reason, they are often prescribed for depression, but research has shown these medications to be effective in treating anxiety, including some phobias.

Commonly prescribed SSRIs include Celexa (citalopram), Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine) and Lexapro (escitalopram).


Monoamine oxidase inhibitors inhibit the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which breaks down certain neurotransmitters in the brain. These medications are also antidepressants, but work well against certain phobias.

Commonly prescribed MAOIs include Nardil (phenelzine) and Parnate (tranylcypromine).


Benzodiazepines are mild sedative medications that are commonly used to treat anxiety. They can be effective against phobias by reducing the level of associated anxiety.

Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam).

Beta Blockers

Beta blockers work by suppressing the effects of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, in the body. Some of the associated physical effects of high adrenaline, such as sweating and palpitations, are also blocked.

Some beta blockers can be used for short-term phobia relief. A common usage of these medications is for those who suffer from social phobia but must give a speech. Although there is some controversy about the use of beta blockers for performance anxiety, they may be effective in some instances.

Phobia Medications and Children

The use of phobia medications for children is fairly controversial. Since 2005, the FDA has required all antidepressants, including SSRIs, to carry a black box warning that clearly delineates an increased suicide risk in children and teens. Nonetheless, these medications have been shown to be highly effective in some cases.

Phobia treatment is an individualized process, and what works for one person may not work for another. Only your child's doctor or psychiatrist can help you decide whether certain medications are right for your child.

Side Effects and Warnings

No medications can be considered absolutely safe in all circumstances. The above-listed medications, as any drug, may carry a risk of side effects. It is important to review your medications with your doctor.

To maintain your health and safety, be honest with your doctor about any drinking or recreational drug use. Also let him or her know of any other prescription or over-the-counter medications that you take. If you have multiple doctors, keep each one up to date.

You can look up detailed information on your medication in the About.com Drug Finder. Also read all medication inserts and always contact your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns.

Discontinuing Phobia Medications

In times of economic difficulty, most of us are forced to reexamine our monthly budgets. Phobia medications, like other medications, can be extremely costly. In addition, some people do not like the way certain drugs make them feel. The risks of discontinuation vary by the type of medications you are on, but it is never a good idea to simply stop taking any medications without consulting your doctor.

Saving Money on Your Medications

If you feel that your phobia medications are too expensive, you may be able to bring down the cost. Choosing generic alternatives, joining a prescription savings plan, and asking your doctor to prescribe a less-costly alternative are just a few ways to save money on your medications.


Phobias: Treatment. Mayo Clinic. February 13, 2008. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/phobias/DS00272/DSECTION=7

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