Written by Shannon,
6 Minute Read
Medically reviewed by:
Jen Miller, PMHNP-BC
10 Minute Read
Antidepressant medication is commonly used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. There are many different types of antidepressants available. There is no single one-size-fits-all antidepressant for anxiety—a psychiatric provider can help determine which ones will work the best for your unique needs.
Building a stronger understanding of all of the options available can help you better understand why your provider may or may not recommend certain medications as you work to find the right fit for you. Your provider will help find the right medication, tell you anything you might need to know about a certain medication, and inform you of proper usage.
While it’s impossible to know what the best antidepressant for your anxiety and depression is without meeting with a mental health professional, we can provide you with information to prepare you for when you talk to your provider.
This is your guide to some of the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medications for anxiety, and what you should know about them.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: What are they?
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are one of the most commonly prescribed forms of antidepressants when it comes to treating some types of anxiety because they are well studied and widely recognized as an effective part of an evidence-based approach to treatment.
Before talking about the details and important information about specific SSRIs, let’s review some basics about what SSRIs are. You can learn more about how these antidepressants work by visiting our blog.
Compared to benzodiazepines, SSRIs have a much smaller risk of abuse and dependency, making them a safer and often more effective option when treating anxiety. SSRIs can take 4-6 weeks to start relieving your symptoms, so it is important to keep taking them even if you don’t feel immediate symptom relief.
SSRIs can have some side effects, including:
- Weight gain
- Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
- Dry mouth
The specific side effects you are at risk of experiencing can depend on the exact medication you are using, but these are some general possibilities to keep in mind.
Side effects are temporary and usually resolve when the medication starts to work 4-6 weeks after you start treatment. You should tell your provider about any side effects you experience. If you ever end up with side effects that are severe or that do not start to resolve, it is especially important to consult your provider as soon as possible for the next steps. They will make adjustments to your dosage or will be able to help you find a different medication if necessary.
Now that we have touched on the basics, let’s talk about 3 of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs for anxiety.
Zoloft is the brand name for the drug sertraline, and aside from treating anxiety disorders and treating depression, this medication is also sometimes used to treat panic disorders, post-traumatic stress, premenstrual dysphoric issues, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Zoloft is available either as a tablet or in liquid form and is typically recommended to be taken once a day with or without food.
Sometimes, it can take some time to find the right dosage for your individual needs, so you and your provider may need to work together and adjust your dosage a few times before you find the dosage that works best for you.
Anyone who is allergic to sertraline should not take Zoloft, since the drug itself is sertraline, and Zoloft can have some drug interactions, which is why it is so important to inform your provider of any other medications you are taking.
Lexapro is the brand name for the drug escitalopram, and this medication is approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. It can also be prescribed off-label for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Like all SSRIs, it can take around 4-6 weeks for Lexapro to really start relieving your symptoms, and it is important for you to continue taking your medication even when you do start to feel better. You and your provider will work together to come up with a plan regarding how long you should take your medication.
Prozac is the brand name for the drug fluoxetine, and it is approved to treat major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, bulimia nervosa, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Prozac is also often prescribed off-label for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more.
Like other SSRIs, you should continue taking your medication even when you do start to feel better, stopping your medication abruptly can cause some side effects like nausea, dizziness, vomiting, headaches, and other symptoms of withdrawal.
Instead, you should speak with your provider if you want to stop your medication for any reason. Your provider will work with you to come up with a personalized plan regarding how long you should take your medication, and how to safely wean off the medication when the time is right.
If you are having trouble dealing with anxiety and do not know where to turn, Brightside Health is here to help.
With Brightside, you’ll get matched with a psychiatric provider who will support you every step of the way and assess your needs so they can work with you to craft a tailored treatment plan including medication, evidence-based therapy, or both.
Medication can even be delivered to your door—Brightside gives you unlimited access to the care you deserve online and from home. You can get started today by taking our free online assessment so that we can better evaluate where your needs and concerns. We are here to help you get back to being you.
The bottom line
When it comes to treating anxiety with medication, there are plenty of options out there, all of which work a little bit differently and may come with different risks and side effects.
Antidepressants are very commonly used to treat anxiety, with SSRIs being prescribed in many cases. Some of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs are Zoloft, Lexapro, and Prozac. The dosages for these medications vary depending on the one you are using and your unique needs. Your provider will be able to tell you what dosage will likely be the best for you and work with you to adjust the dosage if necessary. Within 12 weeks, 86% of Brightside members experience improvement and 71% achieve remission of their symptoms.
Get started with Brightside today and meet with a provider about anxiety within 48 hours.