Can a Neurologist Prescribe Anxiety Medication?

Aside from heightened worrying, anxiety may also cause physiological symptoms like tremors, memory issues, and tingling in your limbs. You might visit a neurologist to confirm whether you have a neurologic condition or anxiety disorder. If it is indeed anxiety, can a neurologist prescribe anxiety medication on the spot?

A neurologist can prescribe anxiety medication as they are certified doctors. Typically, the neurologist will prescribe anti-anxiety drugs if the anxiety is related to a neurological disease. However, doctors will first evaluate the patient to rule out illnesses that mimic anxiety symptoms.

This article will discuss the scope of practice for neurologists and whether they are qualified to prescribe anti-anxiety drugs and diagnose anxiety disorders. We will also explain the symptoms of anxiety disorders and the treatments available to neurologic patients.

Table of Contents

  1. Can a neurologist prescribe drugs?
    1. Neurological reasons for anxiety medication
    2. Is medication needed for anxiety disorder?
  2. Can a neurologist diagnose anxiety disorders?
    1. Is anxiety neurological or psychological?
    2. The difference between neurologists and psychologists
  3. Final Words

Can a Neurologist Prescribe Drugs?

A general physician can refer you to a neurology specialist if they suspect you have issues with your central nervous system. However, can you receive prescription drugs from a neurologist?

Yes. Neurologists can prescribe drugs because they’re trained as physicians before specializing in neurology. A neurologist will run diagnostic tests to determine the neurological illness before giving a prescription. The doctor will then prescribe medication that can manage and cure symptoms.

If the patient suffers from anxiety, a neurologist may advise the following drug types:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines

Before handing out a prescription, a doctor of neurology will conduct a complete body evaluation to distinguish symptoms of psychological anxiety from possible underlying neurological conditions.

A neurologist will diagnose anxiety if it’s related to a neurological illness
A neurologist will diagnose anxiety if it’s related to a neurological illness

Neurological Reasons for Anxiety Medication

Anxiety can be a by-product of the stress felt by the patient suffering from neurologic disorders. Patients may feel anxious about the neurologic condition, medication side effects, or experiencing comorbid ailments.

Several disorders can result in the patient feeling anxious; most of them are chronic or progressive. A few examples of these include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Guillain-Barré
  • Myasthenia gravis

Several types of anxiety can affect a patient after receiving a diagnosis. The common forms of this disorder are:

  • Panic disorder
  • Social phobia
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Is Medication Needed for Anxiety Disorder?

It’s common for doctors to prescribe medication to treat overly anxious patients. Still, this scenario may not work for everyone.

No. Medication is not always needed for anxiety disorders. Doctors can recommend alternatives to lower stress levels for patients who choose not to take drugs. However, anti-anxiety drugs may be encouraged in severe cases.

Sometimes a patient may develop an allergic reaction or severe side effects from anti-anxiety treatments. There is also the possibility of medications not complementing each other due to clashing secondary side effects.

Therefore, it’s plausible that a patient might choose not to take any drugs at all. Discuss with your doctor if you’re uncertain or uncomfortable about being prescribed anti-anxiety medicine.

Alternatives to taking anti-anxiety drugs include:

  • Exercising
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Healthy diets
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy

Can a Neurologist Diagnose Anxiety Disorders?

Neurologists go through the same training as doctors, followed by an additional few years of specialist training and board exams. They have expertise in detecting an array of diseases and disorders.

A neurologist will diagnose anxiety if it’s related to a neurologic illness. During an evaluation, neurologists will try to rule out any diagnoses that mimic anxiety symptoms. A neurologist can refer the patient to a mental health expert if the anxiety is found unrelated to the disease.

The neurologist can diagnose anxiety disorders
The neurologist can diagnose anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders affect roughly 40 million Americans, and 30% of adults will experience some form of anxiety during their lifetime. Although neurologists can diagnose anxiety, they first have to ensure that the patient’s symptoms aren’t mirroring a neurologic condition. 

When assessing a patient, a neurologist may test the following bodily functions:

  • Motor functions
  • Sensory tests
  • Mental status
  • Coordination and reflexes
  • Cranial nerves

Once the patient evaluation is complete, the doctor can decide if the patient is suffering from neurological issues, anxiety disorder, or both.

Is Anxiety Neurological or Psychological?

Anxiety is psychological, and it’s classed as a mental disorder. However, there are many neurological conditions that can cause anxiety, which is why it can often go unnoticed or be overlooked by doctors.

Psychology professor Dr. Michelle Craske defines anxiety disorder as, “an emotional state in anticipation of an upcoming threat or danger.”

While anxiety is a completely normal human emotion, it can become a disorder when these states of anxiety become more frequent, and therefore lead to impaired daily functioning.

Symptoms of anxiety that are shared with some neurological conditions include:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Memory and cognitive problems
  • Pain and tingling in the limbs
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hyperventilation

Because these symptoms are commonplace in anxiety and neurologic problems, there is a risk of overlooking either condition. As such, anxiety disorders often go unnoticed in patients or are communicated as being a normal psychological response to being diagnosed with neurologic conditions.

The Difference Between Neurologists and Psychiatrists

Anxiety is considered a mental health issue. You might be wondering, do neurologists specialize in psychological wellbeing as much as psychiatrists do?

According to the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), the two specializations have the following scopes of practice.

Here’s a simple table that shows the difference between a Neurologist and a Psychiatrist:

Psychiatrist   Neurologist
Test and diagnose psychological problems, prescribe medication, provide psychotherapy, and offer continuing care for psychiatric issues.   Diagnose and treat disorders afflicting the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, nerves, muscles) and provide medical management for emergencies and long-term treatment of chronic neurological diseases.

Patients who suspect they’re suffering from anxiety disorder can consult either one of these specialists, usually after seeing a general physician. The choice between seeing a neurologist and a psychiatrist will depend on the root cause of the disease.

Psychiatrists test and diagnose psychological problems and prescribe medication
Psychiatrists test and diagnose psychological problems and prescribe medication

Final Words

Neurologists can prescribe anxiety medication, but this is usually when the anxiety is related to a neurological condition rather than the patient’s existing mental health.

Before diagnosing a patient with anxiety disorder, a neurologist will run tests to determine if the patient is solely anxious or if the nervous system is suffering from illness.

In cases where the patient is healthy but anxious, doctors may refer them to a mental health expert instead of a neurologist. If the patient refuses medication, there are other non-drug alternatives to lower the body’s stress levels.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this article about if a neurologist can prescribe anxiety medication or not, you may want to read Asthma Attack vs Panic Attack: Difference and Treatment and 10 Scary Rare Mental Disorders List You’ve Never Heard Of.


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