Journal of Health & Wellness

A Collection of Contemporary Research About Humans

Pharmacotherapy of Anxiety Disorders: Current and Emerging Treatment Options

DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.595584


Author Affiliations

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, United States.
  • 2Silver Hill Hospital, New Canaan, CT, United States.
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States.
  • 4Department of Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, United States.
  • 5Department of Psychiatry and Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada.
  • 6Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States.
  • 7Clinical Research Division, Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, NY, United States.
  • 8Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, United States.



Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent psychiatric disorders and a leading cause of disability. While there continues to be expansive research in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and schizophrenia, there is a relative dearth of novel medications under investigation for anxiety disorders. This review's first aim is to summarize current pharmacological treatments (both approved and off-label) for panic disorder (PD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and specific phobias (SP), including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), azapirones (e.g., buspirone), mixed antidepressants (e.g., mirtazapine), antipsychotics, antihistamines (e.g., hydroxyzine), alpha- and beta-adrenergic medications (e.g., propranolol, clonidine), and GABAergic medications (benzodiazepines, pregabalin, and gabapentin). Posttraumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are excluded from this review. Second, we will review novel pharmacotherapeutic agents under investigation for the treatment of anxiety disorders in adults. The pathways and neurotransmitters reviewed include serotonergic agents, glutamate modulators, GABAergic medications, neuropeptides, neurosteroids, alpha- and beta-adrenergic agents, cannabinoids, and natural remedies. The outcome of the review reveals a lack of randomized double-blind placebo- controlled trials for anxiety disorders and few studies comparing novel treatments to existing anxiolytic agents. Although there are some recent randomized controlled trials for novel agents including neuropeptides, glutamatergic agents (such as ketamine and d-cycloserine), and cannabinoids (including cannabidiol) primarily in GAD or SAD, these trials have largely been negative, with only some promise for kava and PH94B (an inhaled neurosteroid). Overall, the progression of current and future psychopharmacology research in anxiety disorders suggests that there needs to be further expansion in research of these novel pathways and larger-scale studies of promising agents with positive results from smaller trials.

Keywords: agoraphobia; anxiolytic; experimental; panic; phobia; psychopharmacology.

Conflict of interest statement

In the past 5 years, JM has provided consultation services and/or served on advisory boards for Allergan, Boehreinger Ingelheim, Clexio Biosciences, Fortress Biotech, FSV7, Global Medical Education (GME), Impel Neuropharma, Janssen Research and Development, Medavante-Prophase, Novartis, Otsuka, and Sage Therapeutics. JM is named on a patent pending for neuropeptide Y as a treatment for mood and anxiety disorders and on a patent pending for the use of ezogabine and other KCNQ channel openers to treat depression and related conditions. The Icahn School of Medicine (employer of JM) is named on a patent and has entered into a licensing agreement and will receive payments related to the use of ketamine or esketamine for the treatment of depression. The Icahn School of Medicine is also named on a patent related to the use of ketamine for the treatment of PTSD. JM is not named on these patents and will not receive any payments. In the last 5 years, DI has received consulting honoraria from Alkermes, Axsome, Centers for Psychiatric Excellence, Jazz, Lundbeck, Otsuka, Precision Neuroscience, Sage, Sunovion; he has received research support (through his academic institution) from Alkermes, Astra Zeneca, Brainsway, Litecure, Neosync, Otsuka, Roche, Shire. The remaining authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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