How Long Does It Take Anxiety Medications to Work?

How Long Does It Take Anxiety Medications to Work?

How Long Does It Take Anxiety Medications to Work? 2560 1707 Aware Behavioral Health

Anxiety can be a debilitating condition that interferes with daily life, from social interactions to work performance. Finding an effective treatment solution is often a priority for those seeking help. When someone has struggled with anxiety for a long time, they also typically want some relief right away – a chance to have a break from their anxiety symptoms.

One of the most common questions raised in this context is, “How long will it take for my anxiety medication to work?” At Aware Behavioral Health, we understand the urgency behind this question and the importance of managing expectations. We encourage you to contact us to learn more about anxiety medications, because your specific situation may be different. The following is a general guide, but not that individual time may vary considerably.

Understanding the Complexity of Medication Timelines

The effectiveness of anxiety medications varies not only from person to person but also within medication types. Factors like dosage, individual physiology, and the nature of the anxiety disorder all play a role in how quickly a medication may exert its effects. The goal is to provide clarity on general timelines for the most commonly prescribed types of anxiety medications.

Classes of Anxiety Medications and Their Efficacy Timelines

There are many possible medications for anxiety, which is why a consultation is so important. With that in mind, the following are some common medications and their time of onset:


  • Onset of Action – Rapid, often within 30 minutes to an hour.

Benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin offer quick relief from acute anxiety symptoms. However, due to the potential for dependency and other side effects, they are typically not recommended for long-term treatment of chronic anxiety disorders.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Onset of Action – Gradual, with the full effects typically manifesting over 4-6 weeks.

SSRIs like Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro are often the first line of treatment for generalized anxiety disorder and are suited for long-term treatment. Initial effects may start to appear within 1-2 weeks, but full therapeutic benefits may not be evident until six weeks into treatment.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

  • Onset of Action – Comparable to SSRIs, around 4-6 weeks.

Medications such as Effexor and Cymbalta are utilized for both depression and anxiety. The timing for therapeutic benefits is similar to that of SSRIs.


  • Onset of Action – Fairly Rapid, often within a week.

Although not an antianxiety medication in the traditional sense, Pregabalin (Lyrica) is sometimes used for generalized anxiety disorder. It offers the benefit of quicker onset compared to SSRIs and SNRIs but has its own set of potential side effects.


  • Onset of Action – Moderate, usually within 2-3 weeks.

Buspirone (Buspar) is often prescribed for chronic anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder. It is generally well-tolerated but less effective than SSRIs and SNRIs.

Considerations for Medication Adherence and Ongoing Consultations

It’s crucial to remain compliant with medication regimens, even if the effects are not immediately noticeable. Discontinuing medications or altering the dosage without professional guidance can result in unintended consequences, such as withdrawal symptoms or a resurgence of anxiety. Regular consultations with healthcare providers are essential for monitoring effectiveness and making any necessary adjustments.

In addition, it should be noted that some people start to notice at least some effects more quickly. It is not clear if this is the placebo effect, or if a person is responding to the medication. Either way, continue to take the medication as instructed.

Most Anxiety Medications Take Time

Understanding the varying timelines associated with anxiety medications can help manage expectations and reduce additional stress. Aware Behavioral Health is committed to providing patients with thorough information to make informed decisions regarding their treatment plan.

For further personalized advice or inquiries about anxiety treatment, contact Aware Behavioral Health. Our team of experienced psychiatrists is dedicated to supporting your mental well-being.

Dallas Psychiatrist Dr. Surin Sehdev

Dr. Surin Sehdev is the lead psychiatrist at Aware Behavioral Health in Dallas (formerly Bedford, TX). He has been working in the psychiatric field for 7+ years. He specializes in opioid withdrawal, ADHD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction. Content on this blog and this website should be considered informal and should not be considered medical advice, as may be written and/or edited by non-medical staff. Please contact Dr. Sehdev for specific and accurate diagnoses and treatment information.

All stories by : Dallas Psychiatrist Dr. Surin Sehdev