Anxiety Medications for Children and Adolescents

There are several different types of Anxiety Medications for Children and Adolescents available, however, this article will focus on the ones that are most commonly used for children and teens. It is important to note that I am a mental health therapist and not a doctor. This information is provided to you as an overview of how medications are an effective tool in treating mental health with children and teens with mental illness.

Anxiety and Insomnia

The most common used anxiety medications for children are:

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and Hydroxyzine (Vistaril)
  • Buspirone (Buspar) – nonaddictive
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
    • Zoloft
    • Prozac
    • Luvox

It is recommended to seek mental health counseling prior to medication. Medication should be a last resort as it is a tool rather than a cure.


Anxiety medication in combination with counseling has been used to treat the following:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Anxiety Attacks
  • Panic Attacks
  • OCD
  • Depression with Anxiety (SSRI)
  • Social Anxiety
  • PTSD

Is Anxiety Medication Safe?

Anxiety Medications for Children and Adolescents is generally safe and effective and is often used in conjunction with therapy. Medication may be a short-term or long-term treatment option, depending on severity of symptoms, other medical conditions, and other individual circumstances. Every individual’s body and brain development and chemistry is different. It can be a difficult and challenging path to finding the right anxiety medication that will work for your child and teen. These medications can take up to 4-6 weeks to notice a positive effect. They must be taken as prescribed and should not be abruptly discontinued without a doctor’s recommendation to to possible increase in symptoms or side effects.

It is recommended to seek mental health counseling prior to medication. Medication should be a last resort as it is a tool rather than a cure.

Special Considerations for Children

Symptoms of mental health may be expressed differently in children than in teens or adults. For example: A child may show irritability or depression rather than anxiety. It is important to consider the child’s developmental stage to recognize if symptoms are of concern or appropriate.


  • Children metabolize medications faster than adults due to greater functioning of their livers, kidneys and gastrointestinal tracks resulting in lower drug concentrations in their bodies.
  • Medications may need to be adjusted or changed more frequently due to growth and development.
  • Side effects of medications differ to adults.
  • Most psychiatric medications have not undergone rigorous testing for FDA approval due to ethical concerns.


Some state laws may require your adolescents (16 and older) to consent to medication management. If your teen refuses, it is important for your prescribing physician and therapist to educate and discuss their willingness to try proposed medication.

Questions to ask about Medications

It is highly recommended to advocate for your child when seeking psychiatric medications as a tool in aiding mental health issues. Below is an important list of questions to ask:

  • What is the name of the medication and the generic names?
  • Is the effectiveness of generic medication the same as name brand medications?
  • What is the difference between generic medication and brand name medication?
  • What is the medication used for?
  • How long will it take before we begin to see improvement?
  • Is the medication addictive?
  • When does the medication need to be taken and should it be taken with food?
  • What are the side effects I should be aware of?
  • What should we do if we experience side effects?
  • How long will my child need to take the medication?
  • If we choose to stop taking medication, do we wean off or stop completely?
  • Are there long term effects of taking the medication?