Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors, and benzodiazepines are the most common medications for anxiety and depression. The best option will depend on a person’s symptoms, overall health, and treatment aims.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately
This article will discuss medications a doctor may prescribe to treat anxiety and depression. It will also explore other treatment options and diagnostic processes for these conditions.
Anxiety and depression are mental health conditions.
They often co-occur, with around 45% of people worldwide with lifetime major depressive disorder also experiencing one or more anxiety disorders.
Anxiety links closely with fear. This results in a future-oriented mood and behavioral response, where the person prepares for an anticipated event or situation that they perceive as threatening.
The fear can become worse over time and may interfere with daily life. Different types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.
Depression is a mood disorder. It may result in symptoms such as:
- persistent sadness
- difficulty sleeping and concentrating
- thoughts of suicide
Like anxiety, depression may interfere with a person’s daily life.
Doctors may recommend medication in combination with other treatment options such as therapy for people experiencing anxiety and depression.
The most suitable treatment will depend on a person’s symptoms, co-occurring conditions, and the severity of their condition. Some medications can treat both conditions, while others are more suited to treating either anxiety or depression.
Antidepressant medications can help improve the symptoms of depression. With adequate treatment,
Medication for anxiety
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of drugs that doctors consider
However, it may take up to
Examples of SSRIs that doctors prescribe in the U.S.
Side effects of SSRIs
- dry mouth
- weight gain
- decreased sex drive
- anorgasmia, or difficulty orgasming
There is also an
Some SSRIs such as citalopram can affect the heart, potentially leading to abnormal heart rhythms.
A person takes SSRIs orally. They are available as tablets, capsules, liquid suspensions, and solutions.
The starting dose varies with each drug. For example, the
A doctor may increase or decrease a person’s dose depending on the severity of their anxiety and how well they respond to treatment.
A person may wish to discontinue SSRI treatment for various reasons, including side effects. A doctor will likely recommend that a person gradually lower their dosage over weeks or months.
A person may experience discontinuation symptoms when coming off SSRIs, including low mood and irritability.
Learn more about antidepressant withdrawal.
Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors
Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another class of drugs that doctors consider
In this way, they
Examples of SNRIs
Common side effects of SNRIs
- dry mouth
- increased blood pressure
- sexual dysfunction
- weight gain
There is also an association between this kind of medication and an
The starting dose for SNRIs may also vary depending on the drug. For example, the
Learn more about SSRIs and SNRIs.
Benzodiazepines are a type of antianxiety medication that
They work by
According to research, the effects of benzodiazepines occur within
Examples of benzodiazepines include:
The drawback of benzodiazepines is that a person
Learn more about drug dependence.
A person using benzodiazepines may experience some side effects, such as:
- loss of balance
Learn more about withdrawing from benzodiazepines.
There is also an association between benzodiazepine use and an increased risk of being unable to learn or remember new information or do certain physical and cognitive tasks. These side effects normally reduce once the drug clears the body.
Other risks associated with long-term benzodiazepine use
- dementia or dementia-like illnesses
- impaired motor function
- aggressive behavior
- impaired cognitive function
TCAs work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin and noradrenaline, increasing their levels in the brain.
Examples of TCAs
Side effects of TCAs
A doctor may prescribe beta-blockers to help with symptoms of anxiety.
Beta-blockers are a class of drugs doctors
Beta-blockers may be able to improve physical symptoms of anxiety,
- a fast heart rate
- a trembling voice
- shaking hands
Propranolol and atenolol are examples of beta-blockers a doctor may prescribe for anxiety.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are a type of antidepressant that
Monoamine oxidase is an enzyme that breaks down chemicals such as serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine. When a person takes MAOIs, the levels of these chemicals in the brain increase, with a therapeutic effect.
MAOIs normally take
Examples of MAOIs
Adverse effects of MAOIs
- dry mouth
Medication may not suit everyone, and a person may prefer other treatment options for depression and anxiety. They may wish to consider:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This focuses on identifying and modifying behaviors that are not constructive in dealing with anxiety and depression. It may provide individuals with skills and tools to react more productively to certain situations.
- Exposure therapy: This type of therapy involves a person moving toward anxiety-causing situations that they normally avoid to learn how to deal with anxiety and reduce their symptoms.
- Arts and creative therapy: This involves using music, painting, or drama to help a person express their feelings and deal with symptoms.
- Talk therapy: This involves a person speaking to a professional about experiences and feelings and may help them find new methods to deal with situations.
- Support groups: These provide a setting for individuals to meet others with anxiety or depression, with whom they can discuss their feelings.
- Stress management techniques: Techniques such as exercise, mindfulness, and meditation may help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.
A person will need to see a doctor to receive a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, or both.
A doctor will usually take a
The doctor will likely ask about symptoms and the person’s mood and emotions. They may ask the person to complete a questionnaire identifying signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression.
For a person to receive a diagnosis of depression, their symptoms must be present for at least
A person should speak with a doctor if they have been experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, such as low mood or anxious thoughts, for more than 2 weeks.
They may also want to see their doctor if they are on antidepressant or antianxiety medication and have been experiencing adverse effects.
Anxiety and depression are mental health conditions that affect mood and emotion. Anxiety is linked to fear and depression to low mood.
Some medications, such as SSRIs, SNRIs, and TCAs, treat both conditions. Others target one specific condition.
Nonmedicinal treatment options for anxiety and depression include CBT, exposure therapy, counseling, and support groups.
People should speak with their doctor if they are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. A doctor can advise them on suitable treatment options.