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Many are unaware that antidepressant – which comes in multiple forms and doses – can be used to treat anxiety and can be incredibly effective in doing so. Certain medications, such as beta blockers, are typically used to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety and help reduce related pains such as tightness in the chest, clenched jaws or even to control panic attacks. Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to Phil Day, who is a Superintendent Pharmacist at Pharmacy2U, who explained how antidepressants are used to treat symptoms of anxiety.
What are the different types of antidepressants?
Depression and anxiety medications are available on prescription and can usually be prescribed to you by your GP without the need for a psychiatric referral.
In England, GPs tend to start those who struggle with anxiety on beta-blockers, which aren’t antidepressants, before starting them on antidepressants.
Phil explains: “There are several different types of antidepressant medicines available on prescription, and some of them are very effective in managing the symptoms of anxiety as well as depression.”
There is one group of antidepressants which is frequently used to treat anxiety, called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, also known as SSRIs
“The group of antidepressants classed as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), which includes citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline, can be helpful for many types of anxiety”, adds Phil.
With figures published in late 2020 revealing a whopping 17 percent of the UK’s adult population is currently prescribed antidepressants, a huge rise on the year before, it’s safe to assume that COVID-19 has had an impact, triggering anxiety and stress for many of us who previously never had any mental health issues
Mr Day explains that after contacting your GP, and “if your doctor believes you would benefit from a medical intervention, you’re very likely to be recommended SSRIs.”
He said: “We believe they work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain – this is a neurotransmitter, which carries signals between nerve cells, and is thought to have a positive effect on moods and emotions.”
Why do doctors recommend SSRIs over other antidepressants?
“SSRIs tend to have fewer side effects than other antidepressants, are usually non-drowsy, and have been in use for many years so we’ve got a lot of experience with them.”
He adds: “Antidepressants are not a cure-all for anxiety, though; while they can certainly be extremely helpful, anxiety is more complex than just having low levels of one brain chemical.
“In many cases, your doctor will first recommend a talking therapy such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), or perhaps a combination of a talking therapy and an SSRI.”
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How do antidepressants affect you?
It’s important to consider that SSRIs typically take a few weeks to start working, with most people experiencing a rocky few days or weeks, making you feel worse before you feel any better.
This is perfectly normal, although it can feel incredibly disorientating to start.
Usually, your doctor will ask to see you every few weeks at the start of treatment to see how you’re doing and to figure out the right medication or dosage.
Side effects can include nausea, dizziness, and agitation, but these are usually mild and don’t happen to everyone.
If you want to know more about SSRIs, for example, if they might interact with any other medicines you’re taking, ask your pharmacist or doctor.
Phil explains that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has also been shown to be very effective in addressing anxiety.
Anxiety is a common problem and there are effective ways that it can be managed.
If it’s affecting your quality of life, talk about it with your doctor.
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