Trazodone is a prescription medication that’s primarily used for the treatment of depression, but it has many off-label uses as well. For example, it’s often prescribed to treat insomnia and agitation associated with dementia. Trazodone may also be prescribed for anxiety treatment.

The following provides an overview of how trazodone works, how it treats health conditions and how it’s different from other drugs, such as Xanax.

Trazodone for Anxiety

Trazodone is approved by the FDA to be used as an antidepressant. However, it can also improve things like sleep, overall mood, appetite and anxiety. The drug is specifically classified as an atypical antidepressant, acting as a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI). It’s often given to patients who don’t respond well to other types of antidepressants.

Trazodone is commonly used off-label to treat insomnia. It has a variety of benefits, including the fact that it’s cheaper than many brand name sleep aids and antidepressants. Additionally, it tends to have fewer side effects and a lower addiction potential than other medications used for this purpose.

Trazodone acts on several brain receptor sites and affects serotonin levels in the brain. The drug is also believed to have a secondary effect on histamine and alpha-adrenergic receptors. These neurotransmitters can play a role in anxiety.

While trazodone for anxiety can be a useful treatment option, it tends to be best suited for patients with depression. However, some physicians may opt to prescribe it for anxiety without depression.

In some cases, trazodone may be better at treating anxiety than other classes of drugs, such as benzodiazepines. For example, trazodone is not usually considered habit-forming, so it can work well for patients prone to drug abuse.

Trazodone Dosage for Anxiety

When a physician prescribes trazodone, they usually start at the smallest effective dosage and increase it if needed. Trazodone is available in dosages of 50, 100, 150 and 300 mg. A typical trazodone dosage for anxiety may start at 150 mg a day, divided into several doses throughout the day. This dosage can be increased as needed over time.

Sedation is one of the primary side effects of trazodone, so if drowsiness is a concern, the majority of the medication might be taken at bedtime.

Trazodone for Social Anxiety

Trazodone may also be prescribed for social anxiety, but this is more common in patients who have depression along with social anxiety.

Is Trazodone Like Xanax?

Though there may be some similarities between trazodone and Xanax, the two drugs are very different from one another.

Xanax is not classified as an antidepressant; instead, it is a benzodiazepine. It’s a short-acting drug that works on certain brain neurotransmitters, which are imbalanced in people with anxiety disorders. These disorders include panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder and others. Xanax is also used for as-needed anxiety situations, such as panic attacks.

When someone takes trazodone, the drug binds to the 5-HT2 receptor. It’s believed to relieve anxiety and depression symptoms by increasing the amount of serotonin available in the brain cells. Xanax, however, binds to benzodiazepine receptors and increases GABA activity in the brain. It significantly impacts central nervous system activity in a way that trazodone does not.

Additionally, the chemical structure of trazodone and Xanax are very different from one another, as are the mechanisms of action. While trazodone relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression, it also improves appetite, life outlook, mood and sleep. Xanax only has calming effects, so it wouldn’t be a good treatment for someone with depression in most cases.

Another big difference between trazodone and Xanax is the fact that Xanax is very addictive. Xanax may not be an ideal option if a patient is prone to drug abuse, but trazodone could work well in these situations.

The side effects of trazodone and Xanax can be similar to one another, including weight gain, drowsiness and dry mouth.

Summing Up—Trazodone For Anxiety

Although trazodone is primarily used to treat depression, it can also be used to relieve anxiety, insomnia and a variety of other conditions. Xanax also relieves anxiety, but this does not mean the two medications are the same. 

Though both may be used to treat similar conditions, trazodone is an antidepressant and Xanax is an anxiety treatment. They also act on the brain and body in different ways, and trazodone is less likely to be abused or lead to addiction when compared to Xanax.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder or co-occurring mental health condition, such as anxiety, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment programs that can work well for your needs.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.