Is Buspirone Good for Anxiety? Can It Stop a Panic Attack?

Medically Reviewed

Finding the right medication to manage anxiety and panic attacks is a task many people must see through to the end before they have any relief. Anxiety affects an estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. age 18 or older, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), and mental disorders involving anxiety are also among the most common.

Panic disorders are also common, as they affect 6 million adults, or 2.7 percent of the U.S. population, ADAA reports. Women are said to be twice as likely to be affected as men.

Buspirone, which is widely recognized by its discontinued brand name BuSpar, is an antianxiety medication that is prescribed to help people manage an anxiety disorder. The medication helps treat the symptoms of anxiety by depressing the central nervous system without the potent effects of other medications, such as benzodiazepines, which have a higher risk of dependence and addiction.

The medication comes in tablet form and can be taken orally two or three times daily with or without food. Users are advised to pick one way to take the medication and do it consistently to ensure the medication is absorbed properly. The Mayo Clinic writes, “Buspirone is thought to work by decreasing the amount and actions of a chemical known as serotonin in certain parts of the brain.”

Buspirone And Anxiety Treatment

If you have anxiety, you may know that buspirone has been used to treat anxiety disorders, but you also might be wondering if it is effective. GoodRx writes that health care providers can prescribe buspirone in addition to an antidepressant to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). That antidepressant can be either a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). It has been found that buspirone can help enhance the effects of an antidepressant drug. Buspirone can also be used alone for people who do not respond well to antidepressants or experience unwanted side effects.

Buspirone And Panic Attacks

Anxiety and panic attacks are often thought of being the same or similar, but they aren’t. “Panic attacks come on suddenly and involve intense and often overwhelming fear,” Healthline explains. “They’re accompanied by frightening physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, or nausea.”

White pills in a handHealthline also notes that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes panic attacks, but it doesn’t recognize anxiety attacks. Instead, it defines anxiety as a feature of several psychiatric disorders. It is possible to experience anxiety and have a panic attack at the same time.

If you are considering taking buspirone to stop panic attacks, some research suggests it remains unresolved whether it’s effective or not. An online search of different users’ experiences with the medication suggests that its effectiveness depends on how it affects the person individually. How the drug affects one person may differ from how it affects another.

Some users have found that buspirone aggravated their condition. “Because of Buspirone side [effects] such as increased heart beat in which increased my anxiety significantly,” writes forum user “Roscoe,” who was taking buspirone on prescription. Some of these side effects might even be rare, as was in the case of Roscoe’s situation. If you experience side effects such as these, you should report them to your doctor right away.

Panic attacks can happen unexpectedly after a person has experienced an external stressor, such as phobia, or they can happen unexpectedly with no clear cause. lists side effects of buspirone as:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness, drowsiness
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Nausea, upset stomach
  • Feeling nervous or excited

The Mayo Clinic reports that rare side effects of buspirone include:

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Rapid or pounding heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Incoordination
  • Mental depression
  • Muscle depression
  • Numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in the hands or feet
  • Sore throat
  • Skin rash or hives
  • Stiffness in arms, legs
  • Uncontrolled body movements

If you are considering taking buspirone for panic attacks, speak with your doctor first to see if this is the best treatment approach for you. Your physician may recommend alternative medications that are commonly prescribed for this condition, such as antidepressant medication or a benzodiazepine, such as Xanax. It could take three to four weeks of buspirone use before you see improvements in your health, according to the National Institute on Mental Illness. As with any prescription medication, take it as directed by a doctor.

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