Most anxiety disorders are a result of overstimulation and high stress. One treatment that has become popular to help target anxiety disorders is Clonidine. Although this medication is primarily used as a medication for high blood pressure, it can be successfully used to help people cope with their anxiety disorders. It works by acting as an α2 adrenergic agonist – which is effective in helping people “chill” out. You may be wondering, why not just prescribe someone with anxiety a benzodiazepine or SSRI? Side effects and long-term effects.
If you do your research, long term effects of benzodiazepines are not too pleasant. In fact, they are linked with the development of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. The research shows that the more you take a benzodiazepine, the more you increase your risk of developing dementia. In order to avoid increasing your risk to a severe disease like dementia, and to avoid the unwanted side effects of an SSRI, your doctor may suggest the medication Clonidine to help treat your anxiety.
What is Clonidine?
Clonidine is officially classified as a centrally acting α2 adrenergic agonist. Some think that it acts centrally as an imidazoline receptor agonist. Clonidine is a medication that is used primarily as a means to help individuals lower their high blood pressure. It has been approved as an alternative treatment for ADHD, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and various pain conditions.
Benefits of Clonidine for Anxiety Disorders
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of taking Clonidine to treat anxiety is that it doesn’t result in slowed cognition to the same degree as various benzodiazepines. Various benzodiazepines like Xanax and Klonopin have been shown to lead to dementia if used excessively. Anytime a medication class is linked to developing a serious disease like dementia, I’d think it would be smart to avoid. Clonidine is generally considered a safer, more viable replacement, but may not be quite as powerful as the benzodiazepine class.
1. Increased relaxation
The main reason people take anything for anxiety is so that they can experience relaxation. Feelings of high stress, social anxiety, or just general anxiety can be extremely uncomfortable. Clonidine helps people feel more relaxed and at-ease in most types of situations that would provoke anxiety.
Most anti-anxiety medications (anxiolytic) are going to make a person feel a sense of calmness when taken. As with any medication that suppresses activity in the central nervous system, it is going to make you feel calmer. This should allow you to feel less of a victim to your anxiety issues.
Clonidine has been researched as a treatment for attention deficit disorder and is found to be very effective to manage the symptoms. The increased focus is not the same as you’d get from a medication like Adderall, it’s more as a result of decreasing arousal (or over-excitement) that could be impairing your concentration.
If you are experiencing a lack of focus as a result of your anxiety and/or if you have comorbid attention-deficit disorder, this medication may end up working wonders to help treat both conditions.
4. Reduced blood pressure
There are links between high stress and high blood pressure. If you have stress, you are more likely to develop hypertension. Although you may not have high blood pressure, some individuals are struggling with both conditions. In order to kill two birds with one stone (anxiety and hypertension), Clonidine may be a viable treatment option.
5. Reductions in hyperactivity
There is a reason that Clonidine is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s because the medication helps hyperactive people calm down. It does this by lowering blood pressure – which naturally is going to lower a person’s overall arousal.
Personal experience taking Clonidine for anxiety
I have personally taken it to help treat my anxiety disorder and have found it very helpful to take on an as-needed basis as opposed to taking a more powerful benzodiazepine medication like Xanax. I have a strong history of both social anxiety and generalized anxiety and would like to keep my risk for developing dementia as low as possible.
I have found that Clonidine helps more for the generalized anxiety component as opposed to the social aspect, but some may still find it effective. I did not find as though Clonidine helped with my focus – in fact my thinking was quite the opposite. I was a little sporadic with thinking, but it definitely calmed me down so that my anxiety didn’t get me upset.
Why Clonidine is gaining popularity for treatment of anxiety disorders
There are a number of reasons why Clonidine is a good option to consider when targeting anxiety. Many doctors and psychiatrists are beginning to realize that this medication is pretty safe. Although it’s not a first line of treatment for anxiety, it is one of the safer medications if you have “just anxiety.” If you have anxiety and hypertension and/or anxiety and comorbid ADHD or hyperactivity, this may be an ideal fit.
- Benzodiazepines are pretty dangerous: Not only do most benzo’s carry a significantly increased risk towards developing dementia, the withdrawal can be incredibly difficult. These also can impair overall cognition.
- Clonidine is pretty safe: This medication has been extensively researched and is considered pretty safe. Obviously everyone responds differently and the medication can be dangerous if not used properly. However, in comparison to other anti-anxiety medications, this is one of the safer medications.
- Minimal side effects: The side effect profile is something that makes this medication stand out. Although it may make individuals drowsy, dizzy, or lightheaded – most of these go away as the body becomes accustomed to the medication. Additionally, dosage can be reduced to minimize any potential unwanted effects.
- No major cognitive impairments: Although any medication that suppresses activity in the central nervous system is likely to impair cognition, if taken at a proper dosage, impairment should be minimal. You may not even notice any impairment in cognition when taking this medication.
- SSRI’s too powerful: Most people with just generalized anxiety do not necessarily need an SSRI for treatment. Although SSRI’s are preferred to benzodiazepines because they are considered safer and less addicting, many people cannot tolerate or respond poorly to SSRI’s. In this case, a medication like Clonidine may be a great option.