Written by Shannon,
7 Minute Read
Medically reviewed by:
Jen Miller, PMHNP-BC
10 Minute Read
*This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional and is only intended for informational and educational purposes.
What do you know about how Prozac can help depression and anxiety?
Anxiety disorders and depressive disorders are the most common mental disorders in the United States, but thankfully, they are manageable with professional treatment.
An effective form of treatment for anxiety and depression is medication, specifically antidepressants. If you’ve talked to a psychiatric provider about your mental health, they may recommend one of these medications to help with your symptoms.
One of the most commonly prescribed medications for depressive disorders and anxiety is Prozac or fluoxetine. It’s normal to be a bit hesitant about taking it with the stigma and misconceptions out there about antidepressants.
Let’s clear the air and talk about how to safely use Prozac for your anxiety and depression, and how Prozac and other antidepressants can help improve your mental health.
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How do antidepressants work?
Common antidepressant medications include SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep, appetite, and mood. In anxiety and depression, it is common to see lower levels of serotonin, often resulting in symptoms of fatigue, reduced appetite, lack of pleasure, and more.
An SSRI works by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin into the brain’s neurotransmitter receptors, which then allows the chemical to be more abundant. This can help balance the serotonin levels in individuals with anxiety or depression.
Prozac can help anxiety and depression because it is an SSRI, alongside other common antidepressants like Zoloft (sertraline) or Lexapro (escitalopram).
There is another class of antidepressants called SNRIs—serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Similar to SSRIs, SNRIs work to block the reabsorption of serotonin, as well as norepinephrine, which is another neurotransmitter heavily involved in mood and feelings of energy and alertness.
A third common class of antidepressants are known as NDRIs, or norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors. Norepinephrine is thought to play a role in the body’s stress response, while dopamine is thought to affect motivation and the ability to experience pleasure. One commonly prescribed SNRI is Cymbalta (duloxetine).
NDRIs work in a similar way as SSRIs, they just block the reabsorption of the above two neurotransmitters instead of blocking serotonin. More often than not, NDRIs are prescribed to people who do not respond well to SSRIs or cannot tolerate their side effects. A commonly prescribed NDRI is Wellbutrin or bupropion.
How and when to take Prozac
While there are general recommendations for taking Prozac, you should follow the specific instructions your provider gives you when they prescribe the medication.
Everyone is different, especially when it comes to your unique symptoms and mental health, and your provider can work with you to find a good starting dose, as well as make adjustments until you find the right dosage.
How long does it take for Prozac to start working?
As with all antidepressants, it can take some time to start noticing results. For Prozac, it can take anywhere from four to six weeks to start working. Keep in mind that everyone’s bodies are different, and Prozac may not work for you even after that time frame.
It’s worth noting that Prozac stands out from other antidepressants because its half-life is substantially longer when compared to other SSRIs. A medication’s half-life is the amount of time it takes for 50% of its concentration to be reduced in the body. The half-life of most antidepressants is one day, but for Prozac, it’s anywhere from two to four, which can make it easier to taper or discontinue the medication when appropriate.
Does Prozac calm you?
This is a somewhat complex question. Prozac works for anxiety largely by helping manage symptoms. It’s a daily maintenance medication, and Prozac is not designed to be highly effective at stopping a panic attack that’s in progress.
As an SSRI, Prozac helps anxiety by keeping serotonin in your system, helping your mood, energy levels, and more. So while Prozac may, technically calm you, it is more of a long-term medication than one that provides immediate relief.
Where to get Prozac
Antidepressants are medications that require a prescription from a licensed psychiatric provider. This means you will need to see a medical provider to get Prozac for your anxiety or depression.
A therapist may recommend that you start taking antidepressant medication, but they can’t actually prescribe Prozac for your anxiety or depression. What they can do is relay information to your psychiatric provider to help them better assess which course of action is best.
Potential side effects of Prozac
One of the reasons that medical providers often choose Prozac for depression and anxiety is because the list of side effects is relatively small compared to many other antidepressant medications. The most common side effects are nausea, headaches, and trouble sleeping. However, they are usually mild and go away after just a few weeks.
Similar to many other antidepressants, you may also experience gastrointestinal problems such as bloating. This is because there are actually serotonin receptors in your digestive tract, which can be temporarily impacted. These symptoms typically resolve in 2 to 3 weeks.
Potential withdrawal symptoms
First and foremost, you should never discontinue taking antidepressant medication without approval from a psychiatric provider. Antidepressants alter your neurochemicals and biology, and stopping them without proper guidance can lead to an antidepressant withdrawal called discontinuation syndrome.
When you stop taking Prozac for anxiety or depression, you may experience mood swings or feel abnormally irritable, or you may have difficulty sleeping. Physical withdrawal symptoms may include nausea, dizziness, or even excessive sweating.
However, if you and your provider decide it is time to stop taking your antidepressant medication, they can help you do so safely in a way that may minimize or prevent these symptoms from occurring. By gradually decreasing, or tapering, your dose over time.
It’s possible that treating anxiety or depression with Prozac might not work for you, or you may experience adverse side effects. Everyone’s body is different, so don’t lose hope. There are plenty of other options your provider might suggest until you find the perfect fit.
Zoloft and Lexapro are two common SSRIs that may be prescribed instead of Prozac for your anxiety or depression. These work in very similar ways as far as blocking the absorption of serotonin, but your body may react to them more positively.
Your psychiatric provider may also prescribe you an NDRI like Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin usually requires more dosage per day and often requires long-term use even after you feel better. Not to mention, it typically comes with more side effects. However, some people respond much better to NDRIs, so you and your psychiatric provider can decide if it’s right for you.
Prozac is good for anxiety and depression because it is an SSRI antidepressant medication that works by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin by your brain’s neurotransmitter receptors. Serotonin is a chemical in your brain responsible for sleep, appetite, and mood regulation.
It’s commonly prescribed for depression and anxiety because it has a long half-life and comes with fewer side effects compared to many other SSRIs.
If your psychiatric provider feels that you no longer need to use Prozac for anxiety or depression, they will guide you on safely tapering off your current dose.
The most important thing to remember about taking Prozac to help with depression and anxiety is that it won’t change who you are, it will just reduce the impact of some of the things weighing you down.
If you’re ready to take a big step towards alleviating your depression or anxiety, Brightside can help.
You’ll be matched with a licensed psychiatric provider who can prescribe medication to be sent directly to your door. And if Prozac isn’t right for you, your personalized treatment plan can be adjusted accordingly.
Getting help can feel scary, but it doesn’t have to be. We’re here for you every step of the way.