Using Antidepressants for Anxiety

Antidepressants Used As Medication for Anxiety

A number of drugs that were originally approved for treating depression have been found to be effective for anxiety disorders. If your healthcare provider prescribes an antidepressant for anxiety, you will need to take it for several weeks before your symptoms start to fade. So it's important to not get discouraged and stop taking these medications before they've had a chance to work.
The different classes of antidepressants used as anxiety medications include:
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Tricyclics
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are relatively new medications. These medicines act on one of the brain's chemical messengers called serotonin.
SSRIs tend to have fewer side effects than older antidepressants. People do sometimes report feeling slightly nauseated or jittery when they first start taking SSRIs, but that usually disappears with time. Some people also experience sexual dysfunction when taking some of these medications.
An adjustment in dosage or a switch to another SSRI will usually correct bothersome problems. It is important to discuss SSRI side effects with your healthcare provider so that he or she will know when there is a need for a change in your medication.
SSRI medications include:


SSRIs are prescribed for various types of anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and social anxiety disorder (see Anxiety for more information on types of anxiety and see Comparisons of SSRI Antidepressants for more information about which SSRIs are approved for anxiety treatment). SSRIs are often used to treat people who have panic disorder in combination with OCD, social phobia, or depression.

Venlafaxine (Effexor®, Effexor® XR), a drug closely related to the SSRIs, is useful for treating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Other newer antidepressants are currently being studied as potential anxiety treatments, although one, bupropion (Aplenzin™, Budeprion XL®, Budeprion™ SR, Buproban®, Wellbutrin SR®, Wellbutrin XL®, Wellbutrin®, Zyban®), does not appear to be effective for these conditions.
SSRI medications are started at a low dose and gradually increased until they reach a therapeutic level.
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