Hydroxyzine (Vistaril), for anxiety: How it works, side effects, and dosage

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Written By DerrickCalvert

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There’s a good possibility that you, or someone you know, have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting more than 40 million people aged 18 and over.

It doesn’t matter where you stand in your anxiety research, the number of medication options available can seem overwhelming. Let’s break it down by looking at one medication and how it fits in the treatment of anxiety. Here’s a quick overview of hydroxyzine for anxiety.

What is hydroxyzine?

Hydroxyzine, which is commonly known as Benadryl or Zyrtec, is an antihistamine that can be used to treat symptoms such as itchy eyes and runny nose.

Although it is considered the same as the other medications, there are some distinct characteristics that make it an alternative for anxiety treatment.

Hydroxyzine can only be purchased with a prescription.

Hydroxyzine hydrochloride vs hydroxyzine pamoate

Hydroxyzine hydrochloride, Orgatrax, and hydroxyzine pamioate (Vistaril), are two versions of the same active ingredients. Hydroxyzine pamoate can be purchased as both a brand-name and generic medication. Hydroxyzine hydrochloride, however, is only available in generic form (the brand Atarax was discontinued). They can be used to treat anxiety in the same manner.

What is the effect of hydroxyzine on anxiety?

Although researchers aren’t able to determine how hydroxyzine affects anxiety in humans, most healthcare professionals agree that it affects two chemicals: serotonin and histamine.

Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine. It blocks the effects histamine has on your body. This makes you feel sleepy. Think about how you feel after taking Nyquil or Benadryl. Your mood is affected by serotonin, a chemical. Hydroxyzine is the antihistamine that has the most powerful effect on serotonin. This may explain why it is used to treat anxiety.

Although hydroxyzine is effective in treating many anxiety disorders, it’s most commonly used for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), particularly when it’s associated with insomnia.

Dosage of Hydroxyzine to treat anxiety

You may have read other articles about anxiety medication. Some medications need to be taken on a regular basis to make an impact, while others, such as hydroxyzine, can be taken whenever you feel the need.

Hydroxyzine should not be your only medication for anxiety. It is not recommended as a long-term treatment. It’s often prescribed along with a longer-term medication such as Celexa or Buspar that is taken daily. Hydroxyzine may provide anxiety relief while the longer-term medication kicks in. Hydroxyzine should only be taken if symptoms present.

Hydroxyzine, like all prescription drugs, should only be taken as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Follow the directions on your prescription. Adults should take 50 to 100 mg daily with or without food. However, some people may begin at a lower dosage. Children under 6 years old take 50 mg per day in divided doses, while those over 6 years receive 50 mg to 100 mg each day in divided doses.

Your provider might adjust the dose depending on your response to the medication (i.e. side effects).

What is the average time it takes for hydroxyzine’s effects to begin?

Hydroxyzine works quickly. Hydroxyzine will kick in most people within 30 minutes. The maximum effect will take around 2 hours. It’s wonderful that it works quickly. However, you should also remember that many side effects can be felt quickly.

Is hydroxyzine safe for use during pregnancy?

Hydroxyzine should not be taken during pregnancy because it can cause harm to the developing foetus. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor. You may have other options that are more safe while you’re pregnant.