Antidepressants as a treatment for anxiety

by | Apr 11, 2023 | Mental health

Antidepressants and anxiety?

Anxiety is a complex emotion felt by everyone at some stage of their lives. However, when anxiety stops you from doing everyday tasks such as leaving the house, or catching up with friends, then anxiety medication (link to upload a script)may be prescribed to help you understand and treat this mental health condition. In addition, various psychological treatments such as cognitive behavior therapy are effective and often are first line treatment.

It has been found that 1 in 7 Australians take antidepressants daily, and 73.1% of mental health-related prescriptions in 2022 were filled for antidepressants (AIHW 2022). *

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These statistics indicate that antidepressants are generally safe, widespread, accessible and helpful in treating anxiety and other mental health conditions. Antidepressants and anxiety are common terms often discussed with patients by doctors.

What you need to know about antidepressants and anxiety

Antidepressants and anxiety are sometimes discussed together. There are many types of anxiety medications, such as antidepressants which correct the imbalance of chemicals causing anxiety. When considering prescribing antidepressants, a treating doctor will consider various factors such as symptoms, the severity of the condition and previous experience with the medication.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are two of the main types of medicines prescribed to help with anxiety. These types of medicines can increase someone’s serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine levels, affecting the individual’s mood.

How are prescription medicines selected to treat my anxiety?

SSRIs are typically prescribed first, with sertraline being one of the most prescribed antidepressants for anxiety. All SSRIs are effective and often it is matter of finding the SSRI that either works best or has the least side effects. SSRIs can have an immediate effect, although typically the full impact will not be felt until 4-8 weeks after first taking the medication. The dosage will need to be adjusted depending on response to treatment. Anxiety treatment with SSRIs typically requires higher doses than for the treatment of depression. Doctors often recommend trying the medication for two-three months before changing it.

The practice of using antidepressants for anxiety along with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) often helps those with anxiety understand their condition. The combination of the two treatment options has proven to be more effective than either on their own.

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Antidepressants and anxiety – Finding the right one to help you

It is always best to speak to your doctor or health professional to find the right antidepressant anxiety medication to suit your needs and symptoms. At first, it may sometimes feel like trial and error, but usually you will find the right balance that will help you manage anxiety and live a fulfilling life.

It is important to remember that while antidepressant prescription medicines are taken by many, they can have different effects for everyone. The medication may reduce symptoms, but alone will not necessarily cure one’s anxiety and depression. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor so they can help.

To learn more about available medicines, we recommend you search myDr for Consumer Medicine Information.

References:

https://www.aihw.gov.au/mental-health/topic-areas/mental-health-prescriptions
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-22/australians-coming-off-antidepressants/100847462#:~:text=Around%20one%20in%20seven%20Australian,using%20after%20years%20of%20medication.

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Medically reviewed by Dr Matt Cullen
MBBS, FRANZCP

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