Depression, anxiety, and ADHD present with different symptoms. Doctors may prescribe different medications to treat each one. They can also recommend medications to treat multiple mental health conditions.
Anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are relatively common mental health conditions. Some people have two or more of these, and doctors call these comorbid or co-occurring conditions.
In these cases, medications or other types of treatment may be effective in treating multiple conditions simultaneously.
Read more to learn about the available options for the best medication for anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
The type of treatment a person receives for ADHD, anxiety, or depression depends on whether they have one or more of these conditions. People with ADHD
Treating one condition is fairly simple and usually involves a combination of medications and therapy. However, treatment can be more complicated if a person has one or more conditions.
This is because while some medications can effectively treat multiple mental health conditions, others can worsen some symptoms. Therefore, a healthcare professional must carefully weigh the risks and benefits of each treatment option.
Everyone is different and may react differently to different drugs, therapies, or combinations of these, so finding the best treatment may require trial and error.
There are various medications available for the treatment of anxiety. They include antidepressants, benzodiazepines, epilepsy drugs, and more.
While there is some risk of addiction to benzodiazepines, the study’s authors argue that this risk has been overstated and only applies to people with a history of substance misuse.
This medication subclass includes medicines such as:
Some anticonvulsants, which are drugs people use to treat epilepsy, may also be effective in managing anxiety symptoms.
There is limited research on using these medications for anxiety, but doctors may prescribe them for people who cannot take benzodiazepines. A 2020 study says that some of these medications include gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica).
Currently, trifluoperazine is the only antipsychotic with approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating anxiety.
Some people with the condition may benefit from taking some types of antipsychotics that doctors prescribe “off-label.” This is when a doctor prescribes a drug for a different use than the one stated when it was licensed. Some of these include aripiprazole (Abilify) and quetiapine (Seroquel).
The first line of treatment for depression is antidepressant medication.
Some people may need a combination of drugs to best manage their condition. This could include two different antidepressants or, in some cases, an antidepressant with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic.
SSRIs allow more serotonin — the “happy” hormone — to circulate in a person’s brain. Some SSRIs include:
- citalopram (Celexa)
- escitalopram oxalate (Lexapro)
- fluoxetine (Prozac)
- fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- paroxetine (Paxil)
- sertraline (Zoloft)
SNRIs can treat anxiety, depression, and some forms of chronic pain. Some examples include:
- desvenlafaxine succinate (Pristiq)
- duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
- venlafaxine (Effexor)
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
MAOIs can target one or multiple neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Examples include:
- isocarboxazid (Marplan)
- phenelzine (Nardil)
- selegiline (EMSAM)
- tranylcypromine (Parnate)
Tetracyclic antidepressants are a class of noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants. They are not as common as the above medications, but doctors may prescribe them for treatment-resistant depression.
Some examples include mirtazapine (Remeron) or maprotiline (Ludiomil).
Tricyclic antidepressants are an older type of antidepressant medication that doctors do not commonly prescribe because they carry a
- amitriptyline (Elavil)
- imipramine (Tofranil)
- nortriptyline (Pamelor)
- Doxepin (Sinequan)
Some other medications that doctors may recommend for treating depression include:
This medication for major depressive disorder can also help people stop smoking.
N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonists
The FDA categorizes l-methyl folate (Deplin), the active form of folate, as a medical food (nutraceutical) rather than medication. However,
It is available by prescription only and works by regulating the neurotransmitters that affect mood.
Healthcare professionals typically break ADHD medications into two subtypes: stimulants and nonstimulants.
Stimulants are first-line therapy for ADHD. These medicines benefit around 75–80% of children with this condition.
Some stimulant medications include:
- mixed amphetamine salts
- Jornay PM
- Adhansia XR
Some people with ADHD do not tolerate stimulants, while others do not benefit from taking them.
- viloxazine (Qelbree)
Some medications work well in treating two or more conditions at once. For example, a doctor may prescribe an ADHD medication that also eases a person’s anxiety.
However, others may help with one condition while worsening another.
For instance, a doctor may prescribe stimulants to treat ADHD, and these can worsen a person’s anxiety. The type of treatment someone needs will depend on whether their anxiety or depression is a symptom of their ADHD or a separate condition.
Various talk therapies can help treat mental health conditions. These include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Encourages a person to identify negative thoughts and provides practical tools to cope.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): Similar to CBT, this technique encourages passive acknowledgment of negative thinking rather than attempting to change someone’s thought process.
- Interpersonal therapy: This traditional talk therapy focuses on the importance of relationships and interpersonal connections.
- Dialectical behavior therapy: This helps a person develop skills in mindfulness, tolerate distress, regulate their emotions, and interact with others
Additionally, some people may benefit from newer therapies, such as electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation. With electroconvulsive therapy, a person receives a general anesthetic, and doctors use electro pads to run electrical currents through the individual’s brain.
With transcranial magnetic stimulation, a person receives treatment with magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, especially the prefrontal cortex. These areas may have atypically low activity in people with depression.
Depression, anxiety, and ADHD are separate mental health conditions that can often overlap. Doctors can prescribe a wide range of medications or combinations of them to treat a person’s condition or conditions.
The best medication for one person may not work for another, and treating mental health conditions takes a personalized approach. Additionally, some individuals may benefit from a range of nondrug therapies available to treat these conditions.