Home » SSRIs For Anxiety: Types, Dosage & Side Effects

SSRIs For Anxiety: Types, Dosage & Side Effects

SSRIs For Anxiety
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SSRIs, or Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are antidepressants that may help manage anxiety and its symptoms.

Anxiety might drain your energy levels, keeping you under constant tension and agitation. It could make you feel nervous and tense, making it difficult to relax. Anxiety could make you think the world is slowing down or speeding up, having a sense of extreme danger or doom.

However, certain medications like SSRIs may help manage these debilitating symptoms of anxiety. These antidepressants may work by increasing the serotonin levels in the brain.

This article explains SSRIs, their working mechanism, and who should take them. It also includes the types of SSRIs and their possible side effects. Discover everything you need to know about SSRIs and how they improve mood and calm your mind.

What Are SSRIs?

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are classified as antidepressant medications commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. SSRIs may help modulate serotonergic neurotransmission. It may help in blocking serotonin reabsorption and may cause an antidepressant effect. SSRIs may help your brain process serotonin more effectively, which might help calm your mind and make you feel more relaxed.


How Do SSRIs Work?

Serotonin neurotransmitter is crucial in regulating mood and emotions. It is the critical component affected by SSRIs.

Serotonin is responsible for stabilizing our mood, thinking, memory, sleep, and digestion. If you have anxiety, serotonin levels may be lower, or its function may be abnormal.

SSRIs work by inhibiting serotonin reuptake in the presynaptic nerve cells that help produce and release it. They increase serotonin levels in the space between nerve cells by blocking the transporter responsible for reabsorbing serotonin.

This allows serotonin to remain active and bind to the postsynaptic cell, sending more signals to regulate mood. SSRIs may also improve your response to psychological treatments. They may help relieve depression symptoms and prevent its recurrence.

Who Should Take SSRIs?

SSRIs could be recommended for people with moderate to severe anxiety symptoms, which significantly impact their daily functioning. These medications are not prescribed for occasional anxiety or situational stress.

You may consult with a doctor to determine the severity of your anxiety and whether SSRIs are an appropriate treatment option.

SSRIs should only be taken if psychotherapy or CBT has not provided sufficient relief. It is important to consider therapy and other lifestyle changes before having SSRI medications.

How Can You Get SSRIs?

SSRIs are prescription medications, so you must see a psychiatrist before having them.

The psychiatrist or therapist will review your medical history to make sure SSRIs are safe and effective for you.

To give you an idea of what to expect when considering SSRIs, here is a table outlining some vital information:

Aspect Details
Prescription SSRIs require a prescription from a healthcare professional.
Administration SSRIs are taken orally as tablets or liquid. Your doctor will start you on a low dose and adjust it if necessary.
Timing SSRIs can be taken in the morning or at night, depending on individual preferences.
Duration It takes 2-6 weeks to feel the full effect of SSRIs, and they should be taken for at least 6-12 months after anxiety improvement.

Types Of SSRIs

  1. Paroxetine (Paxil)

    Paroxetine is commonly known by its brand name Paxil. It is a widely prescribed medication primarily used for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

    Paxil is associated with cardiovascular congenital disabilities in pregnant women. Due to this risk, the FDA updated its classification from Category C, i.e., suspected to cause fetal damage, to Category D, i.e., evidence of human fetal risk.

    Paroxetine has a higher likelihood of interacting with other medications compared to other SSRIs. It is essential to inform your doctor about all your medications to avoid potential interactions that could reduce the effectiveness or increase the risk of side effects.

    It tends to have a more significant sedative effect compared to other SSRIs. It may cause drowsiness or fatigue in some people.

  2. Sertraline (Zoloft)

    Sertraline, commonly known as Zoloft, is a medication frequently prescribed for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

    Sertraline is generally considered a safer option for pregnant and breastfeeding women compared to other SSRIs.

    It is also known to be more effective at higher doses. The dosage should be determined and adjusted based on individual needs and medical history.

  3. Citalopram (Celexa)

    Citalopram is also known by its brand name, Celexa. It is a commonly prescribed SSRI primarily used for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.

    However, compared to other SSRIs, Citalopram has a higher risk of causing an overdose. To minimize this risk, taking the medication at the prescribed dosage is essential.

    Citalopram is associated with a condition called long QT syndrome, which affects the electrical activity of the heart. This condition could lead to abnormal heart rhythms and other cardiac-related side effects.

    Citalopram has fewer interactions with other medications compared to some other SSRIs.

  4. Escitalopram (Lexapro)

    Escitalopram is commonly known by its brand name Lexapro. It is a widely prescribed medication used for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

    Compared to other SSRIs, escitalopram has fewer side effects overall, making it more tolerable for some people. However, individual outcomes could differ among people.

    Escitalopram is also linked to a higher risk of cardiac-related side effects. Therefore, take the medication as prescribed by a medical professional to avoid any potential overdose.

  5. Fluoxetine (Prozac)

    Fluoxetine, commonly known as Prozac, is another medication prescribed for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder.

    Fluoxetine could be safe and effective for children and adolescents with OCD and depression. It is a preferred choice for this age group due to its favorable side effect profile and lower risk of withdrawal symptoms compared to other SSRIs.

    It may inhibit the metabolism of certain medications, leading to adverse interactions. Therefore, informing your doctor about all your medications is important to avoid potential interactions.

  6. Fluvoxamine (Luvox)

    Fluvoxamine, known by its brand name Luvox, is a medicine primarily prescribed for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It may take 2–6 weeks to feel the full effect of fluvoxamine.

    Fluvoxamine may have a higher likelihood of causing gastrointestinal-related side effects compared to other SSRIs.

    It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and take the medication as a healthcare professional directs.

Mechanism Of SSRIs To Cure Anxiety

While SSRIs can effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety, they do not cure anxiety disorders as they address only one aspect of the condition.

Anxiety disorders are complex and multifaceted, involving a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors.

Low serotonin levels may not be the sole cause of anxiety, and therefore, increasing serotonin levels with SSRIs does not entirely resolve the underlying issues.

The most effective treatment for anxiety disorders may involve a combination of medicines, such as SSRIs and psychotherapy. SSRIs should be used as part of a complete treatment plan that includes therapy and lifestyle changes.

It is also important to note that individual responses to SSRIs may vary, and finding the proper medication and dosage that could work best for each person may take time.

SSRIs Dosage

SSRIs are usually taken in tablet or liquid form. Your doctor will start you on a low dose and may gradually increase it if necessary.

The specific dosage will depend on the SSRI prescribed. It is crucial to take the medication as directed and not to double dose if you miss one.

Taking more than the prescribed dose could be dangerous and may lead to serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition.

SSRIs can be taken in the morning or at night, depending on individual preferences. It is recommended to take them simultaneously each day to maintain a consistent level of the medication in your system.

You may continue taking SSRIs as prescribed, even if you start feeling better. Stopping SSRIs abruptly could lead to discontinuation syndrome or a return of anxiety symptoms.

Timeline Of SSRIs Working

SSRIs typically take 2-6 weeks to reach their full effect in reducing anxiety symptoms and stabilizing mood.

During this time, serotonin levels in the brain gradually increase, allowing for better mood. SSRIs may have a sedative effect in the early stages of treatment. The timeline for SSRI effectiveness may vary from person to person.

You may experience an initial improvement in sleep patterns before observing reduced anxiety symptoms.

Even when anxiety symptoms improve, it is generally recommended to continue taking SSRIs for at least 6-12 months.

Side Effects Of SSRIs

SSRIs may cause a range of common side effects, including digestive problems, sexual dysfunction, sleep issues, anxiety symptoms, and physical changes.

Fatigue and drowsiness, in particular, are common, with 38% of people taking SSRIs. While rare, SSRIs can also cause serious side effects that require immediate medical attention. These include low sodium levels, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, and serotonin syndrome.

Stopping SSRIs

It is essential to consult your doctor while deciding to discontinue taking SSRIs. They can guide you through the process and determine the appropriate schedule based on your needs and medical history.

Abruptly discontinuing SSRIs could lead to discontinuation syndrome. It can cause withdrawal-like symptoms such as anxiety, dizziness, and flu.

Gradually decreasing the dosage may allow your body to adjust to the changes and decrease the likelihood of experiencing withdrawal-like symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are There Any Alternative Treatments for Anxiety Instead of SSRIs?
    Alternative treatments for anxiety may include cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy. Other modalities may include relaxation techniques, lifestyle changes, and natural remedies like herbal supplements or mindfulness practices.
  • Can SSRIs Be Used to Treat Other Mental Health Conditions Besides Anxiety?
    SSRIs might be used to treat various mental health conditions, including depression, panic disorder, and other mood disorders. They are effective in reducing symptoms and are commonly prescribed antidepressants.
  • How Long Should Someone Continue Taking SSRIs for Anxiety?
    The duration of SSRI treatment for anxiety varies depending on individual response and the severity of symptoms. It is generally recommended to continue taking SSRIs for at least 6-12 months after anxiety improvement to prevent relapse.
  • Are There Any Lifestyle Changes That Can Enhance the Effectiveness of SSRIs for Anxiety?
    Lifestyle improvements like a healthy diet, consistent exercise, and adequate sleep may complement SSRIs’ effectiveness in managing anxiety. Other lifestyle modifications may include proper stress management and avoiding/limiting alcohol consumption.
  • Can SSRIs Be Taken in Combination With Other Medications for Anxiety?
    Some SSRIs might react with other medicines and some OTC pain-relief medicines and herbal treatments, like St John’s wort. Do not use an anxiolytic agent with an antidepressant to avoid health complications.


SSRIs could be prescribed for treating several anxiety disorders. These medicines may help weaken anxiety symptoms within two weeks. Still, in some cases, they may take up to two months to show effectiveness.

Besides curing anxiety, SSRIs may also have potential downsides to them. These may include digestive problems, sleep issues, and, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts.

However, you should not substitute SSRIs for therapy. Seeking professional help is necessary before starting any medications.

  • The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • It is recommended to consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before trying any tips or strategies.
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