• For 24/7 Treatment Help Call:

    (800) 526-5053

  • SSRIs For Anxiety | Using SSRIs To Treat Anxiety Disorders

    Published on October 18, 2021
    SSRIs For Anxiety | Using SSRIs To Treat Anxiety Disorders

    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed to treat various forms of depression. This is why you may see many SSRIs labeled as antidepressants. However, SSRIs can treat anxiety disorders as well, including:

    In addition to these anxiety disorders, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the use of SSRIs for the following conditions:

    Due to the fact that SSRIs are selective with certain chemicals in the brain, they do not always help those suffering from anxiety disorders. However, SSRIs may treat anxiety symptoms and are likely to be the first line of defense against anxiety disorders.

    How SSRIs Work For Anxiety

    Antidepressant medications such as SSRIs work by targeting chemicals in the brain associated with emotion. Because the word “selective” is part of SSRI, it’s important to note that it means just that—selective. 

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that SSRIs act on the brain’s chemical serotonin. Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter that sends signals between the brain and nerve cells (neurons). 

    SSRIs are selective because they affect serotonin only, not other neurotransmitters. 

    Another medication that increases serotonin in the brain is buspirone (Buspar). Usually prescribed with other medication, Buspar not only increases serotonin but decreases dopamine as well.

    Frequently Used SSRIs

    There are a variety of SSRI antidepressants that you may be familiar with, including:

    Side Effects Of SSRI Medications

    Those who take SSRIs for anxiety should be aware of the potential side effects of SSRIs, which may include:

    • nausea
    • insomnia
    • headache
    • dizziness
    • erectile dysfunction or difficulties with ejaculation
    • nervousness
    • dry mouth
    • diarrhea
    • drowsiness
    • weight gain or loss
    • vomiting

    Discontinuing Your SSRI Medication

    Sudden discontinuation of SSRI medication can lead to the following withdrawal symptoms:

    • suicidal thoughts
    • agitation
    • flu-like symptoms
    • lethargy
    • headache
    • loss in appetite
    • vertigo
    • anxiety

    Because of the above-mentioned symptoms, it’s important to never stop taking your medicine “cold turkey.” In fact, before changing any routine with your medication, you’ll likely want to consult your doctor. 

    When SSRI Medications Don’t Work For Anxiety

    SSRIs are the go-to for anxiety disorders, but sometimes they produce too many side effects for people. For example, if a person is suffering from major depression or bipolar disorder, symptoms such as depression can worsen.

    If an SSRI isn’t the right option for you, other medications are available.

    Serotonin & Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

    SNRIs are sometimes confused with SSRIs. Common SNRIs include venlafaxine (Effexor), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq). NAMI states that SNRIs are the second most common antidepressant prescribed. 

    SNRIs are different from SSRIs because they increase both serotonin and norepinephrine.


    Benzodiazepines can be prescribed instead, which are only for short-term use and should be monitored carefully when taken due to the potential sedative effects. Benzos you may be familiar with include lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), and alprazolam (Xanax).

    Because benzodiazepines can become habit-forming, SSRIs and SNRIs are likely prescribed instead.

    Other Medications 

    Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are prescribed less than other medications because MAOIs have numerous side effects. People who take MAOIs have serious dietary restrictions that must be followed. 

    Tricyclic antidepressants are a class of antidepressants that can be used as well. In addition to this, beta-blockers may also be used to treat anxiety.  

    Treatment For Your Mental Health

    Sometimes it takes weeks of treatment from various medications in order to find the right dose. Your doctor may start you on low doses of an SSRI to determine if the possible side effects are too significant. 

    Those suffering from an anxiety disorder may be introduced to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) by their doctor. This form of therapy, in addition to medication, can prove to be beneficial for your mental health.

    If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, contact your healthcare provider to learn about possible treatment options.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience - Psychopharmacology of anxiety disorders
    National Alliance on Mental Illness - Depression
    National Alliance on Mental Illness - Types of Medication
    National Library of Medicine: PubMed Central - Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) Pathway
    National Library of Medicine: StatPearls - Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
    The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry - Selecting a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor: Clinically Important Distinguishing Features

    Questions About Treatment?

    Ark Behavioral Health offers 100% confidential substance abuse assessment and treatment placement tailored to your individual needs. Achieve long-term recovery.

    100% confidential. We respect your privacy.
    Prefer Texting?
    We've got you covered.

    Receive 24/7 text support right away.
    There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.


    For Immediate Treatment Help Call 800-526-5053