By Becca Owens
For many people, acknowledging that you have an ongoing problem with anxiety or depression can bring both relief — that what you’ve been feeling has a name — and confusion about how you will be able to overcome or move past this trying season. Some people may even feel shame. Although the shame is unwarranted — anxiety and depression are medical conditions, not a result of a weak will or personal failure — you may feel at a loss for how to reach out for help while not drawing attention to yourself or feeling embarrassed.
There is hope that you will once again feel like yourself. Feelings of hopelessness are common for people struggling with depression and anxiety, so it’s important to remind yourself of this truth even if it doesn’t feel true to you at the time. More than 80 percent of people who receive treatment for depression say their symptoms improved, and 60-70 percent of patients who take antidepressants feel better in only three to six weeks of taking the medicine.1,2
Classes of Medication for Anxiety and Depression
There are many options when it comes to medication for your depression or anxiety. Your doctor will know what types of medicine may work best for you and your situation. Below are some of the most common categories of drugs:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – Used for both anxiety and depression, they are the most commonly prescribed. They work well for many people with minimal side effects and are not habit-forming. However, they take four to six weeks to reach their maximum efficacy. SSRIs can also cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly.
- Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) – SNRIs are very similar to SSRIs, but they also work more strongly with the neurotransmitter norepinephrine in your brain. They have similar side effects and build-up time as SSRIs.
- Benzodiazepines – Benzos are used to treat anxiety and are effective for many people. However, they have a much higher potential for abuse because patients tend to develop a tolerance quickly, which means they must take higher and more frequent doses for the same effects. They have potentially dangerous interactions with alcohol, and they do not work well with psychotherapy, which can at times be as effective as pharmaceutical therapy.
Other drugs commonly used for depression include bupropion, mirtazapine, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOIs). Conventionally prescribed anxiety medications include buspirone, hydroxyzine and gabapentin.2,3 When discussing the right medication for you, ask your doctor to explain each option in a way you can understand.
Questions for Your Doctor
Your doctor should be your most trusted resource when it comes to your health. Being prepared for your appointment can help make sure you feel fully informed regarding your treatment. Some helpful questions to ask your doctor at your next appointment are:
- What are my treatment options? – For mild to moderate depression and anxiety, psychotherapy like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often very effective at reducing symptoms. Talk therapy can also be used in conjunction with medication, in many cases.
- How will my medication make me feel? – Make sure you cover common side effects, how long medications usually take to work well and any other concerns you may have about how the medicine could affect you. Some medicines for anxiety and depression have common side effects like weight gain and decreased sex drive. Being aware of these possibilities will give you and your doctor the chance to develop a plan to help with such unwanted effects.
- What about my other regular medications? – Your doctor will need a complete list of medications you take so that you can discuss any potential negative interactions. Make sure to include any natural vitamins or supplements. Having this list with you ahead of time will speed up the process. Other lifestyle interactions, like with drinking alcohol, are also important to discuss at this time.
Medication does not cure anxiety and depression; it treats the symptoms.4 Increasing your overall health will likely help you heal from depression and anxiety, too. Focusing on eating healthy, exercising regularly and surrounding yourself with life-giving relationships are all great ways to invest in your health. Other holistic activities like yoga, meditation and religious involvement prove to be beneficial for many people as well.
It’s important to remember that if your doctor prescribes medication for you, it is because they believe that it is best for your overall health. It is not uncommon to need to try a couple different medications before finding the best one for you. Your recovery from anxiety and depression will take time, but beginning the journey is the first and most important step.
Finding Help for Anxiety and Depression
If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, or know someone who is, we can help. At Hartgrove Behavioral Health System in Chicago, we use innovative brain imaging to pinpoint specific areas of the brain needing adjustment to give you the most effective recovery strategy. For more information regarding our treatments give us a call. We’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Help and hope is available, and we want to see you begin your journey to feeling like the best and most complete version of yourself.
1 “Depression Recovery: An Overview.” WebMD, February 7, 2017.
2 Haggerty, Jim, “An Overview of Depression Treatment Options.” PsychCentral, July 17, 2016.
3 Schiffman, Jason, E., “Anti-Anxiety Medications Explained.” Psychology Today, November 25, 2011.
4 Sederer, Lloyd, I., “Things You Want to Know About Psychiatric Medications But Didn’t Know Who (or How) to Ask.” The Huffington Post, June 18, 2013.