Anxiety Medication Not Working: What to Do Now


Ben Ahrens, HHP


Published on

December 6, 2023


Updated on

May 15, 2024

Medically Reviewed by

Ben Ahrens, HHP


As unique individuals, how we process anxiety can vary significantly. For many, anxiety can become acute, and require anxiety medication and/or talk therapy. When it comes to anxiety medication, there’s no silver bullet. Often finding a therapeutic that works, an effective treatment at the correct dosage, can take time. Once a treatment plan is in place, it’s not uncommon for anxiety medication to lose its efficacy over time. That can happen for many reasons.

In the article, we will look at some of the reasons why your anxiety medication might stop working effectively, and steps that you can take should that happen, including retraining your brain with re-origin’s self-directed, science-based neuroplasticity program. Our program provides an understanding of how we really heal, followed by a series of easily-digestible exercises to retrain your brain. Hundreds of people experiencing chronic illness take control of their health and lives through our program.

If you’re ready to try something other than anxiety medication, try our free demo today.

What Causes Anxiety Medication to Stop Working?

Major depressive disorder is a complex condition that involves neurochemical imbalances in the brain, and for some people, their unique neurobiological makeup makes them less responsive to certain antidepressant medications. Other factors that can impact treatment response include stressful life events, chronic stress, injury or infection, or perhaps you developed a tolerance or haven’t been taking your medication consistently.

Below are the most common reasons your anti-anxiety medications might not work.

You Have Breakthrough Anxiety

Treatment-resistant anxiety, also known as breakthrough anxiety, occurs when you’re receiving adequate treatment but do not experience significant improvement in your symptoms. Treatment-resistant anxiety disorders are typically characterized by a lack of response to standard anxiety treatments, including anxiety or antidepressant medications and psychotherapy.

You Aren’t Taking Your Medication Consistently

Modern life is hectic, and missing medication doses or taking it at irregular intervals can happen. However, non-adherence to medication regimens, inappropriate dosages, or inadequate treatment duration can contribute to poor treatment outcomes. It’s important to adhere to the prescribed regimen from your healthcare provider so you don’t abandon what otherwise might be a very effective treatment.

You’re Sleep Deprived

Sleep deprivation can interfere with the effectiveness of how anxiety medications work. It can impair your body’s ability to absorb and process medications properly, and it can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. This makes you more susceptible to irritability, restlessness, worry, and general distress. This can undermine the effects of anxiety medications, making it more difficult to achieve symptom relief.

You Have Additional Health Problems

Several health problems or medical conditions can affect anxiety medications’ effectiveness. Certain physical health conditions, for instance, hormonal imbalances, cardiovascular diseases, thyroid disorders, or chronic pain conditions, can influence medication metabolism and absorption.

The presence of comorbid mental illness or mental health conditions, such as mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder) or personality disorders, may also require specialized medications or treatment strategies to effectively treat each disorder without countering the outcome of each medication — or creating conflicting side effects.

You’re Taking Other Medications

The effectiveness of anxiety medications can be impacted by interactions with other medications you may be taking.

For instance, drugs that have sedative properties or depress the central nervous system, such as opioids, sleep aids, muscle relaxants, and certain antihistamines, can enhance the effects of sedating antidepressant medications such as benzodiazepines. This combination can lead to increased drowsiness, sedation, impaired coordination, and potentially dangerous respiratory depression.

On the other hand, combining SSRIs or SNRIs with anxiety medications that increase serotonin levels can lead to a condition known as serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by agitation, confusion, rapid heartbeat, increased body temperature, and elevated blood pressure.

It’s crucial to consult with a clinician, such as a pharmacist or prescribing doctor, about potential drug interactions if you’re taking more than one medication or plan to.

You Smoke or Drink

Smoking tobacco can affect the metabolization of certain medications, including certain anxiety medications, by stimulating liver enzymes responsible for drug breakdown. This increased enzymatic activity can speed up the breakdown of medications, resulting in lower concentrations and potentially reduced effectiveness. When this happens, it may lead to inappropriate dosage adjustments.[ii]

Drinking alcohol also affects how anxiety medications like benzodiazepines or sedating antidepressants work. Interactions between the two can lead to excessive sedation, respiratory problems, and potentially hazardous situations, which is why you’re advised not to drink while taking anxiety medications.

You’re Pregnant

The safety and effectiveness of anxiety medications during pregnancy can vary depending on the specific medication, trimester of pregnancy, individual factors, and the severity of the anxiety disorder.

During pregnancy, the body’s weight and blood volume increase, which can lead to changes in metabolism and the way medications are processed and eliminated from the body. Hormonal changes, particularly in estrogen and progesterone levels, can affect the neurotransmitter systems involved in anxiety regulation, potentially influencing the response to anxiety meds.

Pregnancy itself can bring about a range of emotions that can influence anxiety levels and the perceived effectiveness of medications.

You Developed Drug Tolerance

Over time, your body may develop a tolerance to medication. This means that the same dosage that was once effective may no longer produce the desired results. Tolerance can occur with medications that affect the brain and nervous system, such as benzodiazepines or certain antidepressants, leading to decreased response or requiring higher doses for the same effect.

You are experiencing limbic system dysfunction

Another reason your anxiety medication may not be working is you are experiencing limbic system dysfunction. The limbic system plays a key role in detecting and responding to threats, whether physical or emotional in nature. If it’s not functioning properly, it can lead to an exaggerated stress response which can contribute to debilitating anxiety.

The good news is that neuroplasticity training and limbic retraining exercises, such as the ones provided by re-origin, can help you overcome limbic system dysfunction and manage anxiety.

What to Do If Your Anxiety Medication Isn’t Working

So, having explored possible reasons why your anxiety won't go away even though you're taking medication, there are several areas to explore, including alternatives to anxiety medication!

Seek a Mental Health Professional

If you’re experiencing a decrease in the effectiveness of your anxiety medication, consult with a healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or primary care physician, to discuss your symptoms and explore other options.

They can consider your overall health profile, including any existing health conditions or medications, evaluate your specific situation, and provide appropriate guidance, monitoring, and adjustments to ensure the best possible treatment outcomes.

Try Natural Alternatives

If your medication stops working, several natural alternatives and complementary approaches exist to help you manage your anxiety:

  • Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can effectively manage anxiety. It focuses on identifying and modifying negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety disorders.
  • Other forms of therapy, such as mindfulness-based therapies and relaxation techniques, can help calm the mind, reduce anxiety symptoms, and promote relaxation.
  • Regular exercise is proven to reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being. Walking, jogging, yoga, or dancing can help release endorphins, improve sleep, and reduce stress.
  • You can also consider herbal supplements, such as chamomile, lavender, passionflower, lemon balm, and valerian root, which have traditionally been used to reduce anxiety. However, consult a physician or herbalist first to ensure they won’t interact with other medications or have potential side effects.
  • Stress management techniques, such as time management, setting boundaries, prioritizing self-care, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation, can also help manage anxiety.

Neuroplasticity Exercises

The brain is resilient. It is a dynamic and ever-changing organ that is constantly learning about self-preservation and adapting to your environment. While its primary function is to ensure your safety, it also has the ability to generate anxiety. When stress accumulates over time, it can potentially lead to severe anxiety and depression.

This is where the concept of neuroplasticity comes into play. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s remarkable capacity to adapt, change, and reorganize its structure and function based on experiences, learning, and environmental influences.

Neuroplasticity exercises promote the brain’s ability to change and adapt. Through neuroplasticity training exercises, you can repair the limbic system and reset its stress response. The goal is to reestablish the brain as the chief orchestrator to rebalance bodily systems.

Retrain Your Anxious Brain With Re-Origin

Anxiety disorders can be paralyzing. Period. Left unchecked, it can impact every area of our life: relationships, work, leisure, and, critically, our mental and physical well-being.

If your anxiety medication isn’t working, Re-origin brings a new approach to the treatment of mental illness with a self-directed neuroplasticity program. Sign up for our program today, and you’ll be able to literally retrain your brain to significantly reduce anxiety, reset your system, and reclaim your health and happiness.


[ii] How Smoking Affects Medications, May 16, 2016,




Ben Ahrens, HHP