Review Articles

An update on the pharmacological treatment of anxiety and related disorders

K. Outhoff
South African Family Practice | Vol 58, No 5 : September/October| a4561 | DOI: | © 2016 K. Outhoff | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 September 2016 | Published: 02 November 2016

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K. Outhoff, Department of Pharmacology, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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The anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common and debilitating, often coexist with medical and psychiatric conditions, and usually require long-term treatment. Effective anxiolytic drugs include the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which are the preferred agents in primary care. Patients who fail to respond adequately to these may benefit from second-line tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Alternative antidepressants include agomelatine and mirtazapine. Benzodiazepines, the anti-epileptic agent, pregabalin, and atypical antipsychotics are generally reserved for specialist use. The 5-HT1A agonist, buspirone, and the antihistamine, hydroxyzine, may also be useful, although the evidence for their efficacy covers a very narrow spectrum. This review describes the pharmacology of these anxiolytics and provides updated evidence for their use in the anxiety and related disorders.


anxiety disorders; obsessive-compulsive disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder; anxiolytics


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