Mental Health

What Are the Best Medications for Treating Anxiety and Depression?

Madeline Hlobik
Madeline Hlobik13 Sep 2021

Every year, 18.1% of the United States adult population suffers from anxiety disorders, and 6.7% struggle with depression. Taking certain medications can be key to bettering the mental health of these individuals. Overall, benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, are best for treating anxiety disorders, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressants, like Celexa, are best for combatting depression. 

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Best Medications for Treating Anxiety

All individuals will most likely experience some anxiousness at some point in their lives. For some, the feeling may subside on its own or can be regulated by outside hobbies. However, for those with an anxiety disorder, your doctor may prescribe you a medication to help manage your symptoms. 

There are various categories of drugs, each with unique purposes, to combat anxiety. Some of these categories include:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Anxiolytics
  • SSRIs Antidepressants

Typically though, benzodiazepines are most effective in treating anxiety disorders. Below are breakdowns of specific drugs within these categories. 

Alprazolam (Xanax): Best Benzodiazepine

Benzodiazepines are sedatives that are highly utilized in combatting anxiety disorders due to their fast-acting abilities and effectiveness in reducing physiological symptoms of anxiety such as muscle tension, sweating, and panic attacks. Most individuals report noticing symptom relief about 1 to 2 hours after taking Xanax and for an average of 11 hours.

Because Xanax is rather fast-acting, it is not used long term. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax are only used temporarily to treat anxiety, though, because they can cause drowsiness and be misused. Thus, you must follow the prescription directions provided by your doctor. 

Buspirone: Best Anxiolytic

Buspirone is unique in that it is used to treat both short-term and long-term anxiety symptoms. It does so by regulating chemicals in the brain that help to improve your mood. The only drawback to the usage of Buspirone is that it can take weeks for it to become fully effective.

It depends on the directions provided by your doctor; however, Buspirone will typically be taken two to three times a day. Unlike benzodiazepines, Buspirone can be taken for several months up to a year. Side effects of this medication include dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and more.

Fluoxetine (Prozac): Best SSRI Antidepressant

SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac work specifically by increasing serotonin, a chemical in the brain that impacts your mood, sleep, and more. Prozac will be able to reduce physiological symptoms of anxiety and is also able to be used long-term. 

Unlike benzodiazepines, Prozac will take some time to be fully effective in relieving symptoms. This is because SSRIs need to be built up gradually within the body. Thus your doctor will most likely prescribe a low dosage to begin with. At first, you may experience some side effects such as nausea and dizziness when taking Prozac, but these should subside within 4 to 8 weeks. Overall, Prozac is an effective and safe option in the long run for treating anxiety, as it is not addictive like other medications. 

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Best Medications for Treating Depression

Depression is a serious and common mental illness that may cause one to think have negative thoughts about themselves, how they feel, and how they act. If left untreated, it can prompt you to lose interest in activities and decrease your ability to function properly. Thankfully, there are various categories of antidepressants available to help combat depression. 

Many individuals may have to try out different medications until they find the one that works best for them. Some common categories of antidepressants include:

  • SSRIs
  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic Antidepressant

SSRI antidepressants tend to be the most common and best medications for improving depression. Below are some of the best specific medications within the different categories of antidepressants. 

Citalopram (Celexa): Best SSRI Antidepressant

Celexa is an SSRI like Prozac in that it boosts serotonin levels in the brain. It is one of the more commonly used SSRIs in treating depression. Typically, doctors prescribe one tablet be taken once daily at first, and then the dosage may increase as time progresses.

Celexa is one of the safest SSRIs, and individuals have noted an increase in their mood anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks after initially taking Celexa. Side effects when taking Celexa tend to be mild and can include nausea, sexual problems, and fatigue.

Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq): Best SNRI Antidepressant

SNRIs such as Pristiq is a newer class of antidepressants that ease depression by blocking serotonin and norepinephrine reabsorption back into nerve cells that initially released them. Pristiq was FDA approved in the United States in 2008, and it is 10 times more selective in inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin than norepinephrine.

Pristiq is usually prescribed to be taken once daily and has significantly reduced depression symptoms while also preventing them from returning. It does tend to be slower acting, as it can take up to 8 weeks for full effects to be noticed. Side effects are generally mild, but if f you have high blood pressure or heart issues, it is not advised to take this medication. 

Norpramin (Desipramine): Best Tricylic Antidepressant

Tricyclic antidepressants such as Desipramine work by increasing serotonin and norepinephrine within the central nervous system. They also block certain serotonin and norepinephrine transporters. Desipramine is FDA approved; however, it has a black box warning, meaning it could make one’s depression worse.

Desipramine can begin working anywhere from 2 to 5 days after initially taking it. Still, it can also take up to 2 to 3 weeks for the biggest improvement in your depression symptoms to kick in. Drowsiness is the most common side effect found from using Desipramine. 

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Anxiety and Depression Medication Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Knowing if you are suffering from anxiety and depression and attempting to combat the two mental health conditions can be challenging. To better understand and improve your own mental health, check out some of these commonly asked questions below. 

Are there ways I can improve my anxiety and depression without medication?

Many individuals will turn to exercise to boost their moods, as exercise will receive chemical messengers called endorphins in the brain. Other ways to better your mental health include meditation, acupuncture, and speaking with a therapist to combat your negative thoughts. 

How will I know which medication is right for me?

For most, this comes down to trial and error. After consulting with your doctor, they will initially recommend a medication for you. However, many individuals may have to try different medications until they find the one that best helps improve their symptoms. 

What is the difference between anxiety and depression?

Although their medications can overlap, anxiety and depression are two different medical conditions. Symptoms of depression will typically include a depressed mood, no interest in previously enjoyable activities, changes in appetite, insomnia, lack of energy, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors. On the other hand, though, anxiety symptoms will include muscle tension, excessive worry, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. 

Bottom Line

Anxiety and depression are very common medical conditions that can take a mental, emotional, and physical tax on one’s body if left untreated. There are various medications available to help combat symptoms associated with these conditions. Thus it is important to consider consulting with a physician should you feel that you or a loved one needs help in bettering their mental health states. 

A majority of these medications will be available by prescription only, which can be expensive. With Mira, you can receive up to 80% off prescriptions for just $45 per month. Consider signing up today to access these benefits and more.

Madeline Hlobik

Madeline is a Senior at UCLA majoring in Human Biology & Society with a minor in Spanish. She's currently a Healthcare Research Analyst at Mira, writing content for the blog to help the public better understand certain medical issues, technologies, testings, and the importance of healthcare.