How to Cope With Anxiety Caused by Antidepressants

Anxiety and Antidepressants
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Although they're often used to treat anxiety, antidepressants can potentially cause anxiety, especially during the initiation of treatment for depression. Using various strategies, it's possible to get a better handle on anxiety symptoms so you can experience the long-term effects of anxiety-reduction.

Side-Effects of Antidepressants

In addition to feeling jittery or anxious, people may also experience such symptoms as:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Agitation
  • Impulsiveness
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeplessness

There also appears to be a complex relationship between the presence of these symptoms and other rare symptoms, such as mania, worsening depression, and suicidal thoughts—with children, teens, and young adults appearing to be the most susceptible. 

In 2004, the FDA added a black box warning to all antidepressant labels describing these potentially serious side effects.

Anxiety felt while taking an antidepressant is generally mild. In addition, it will most likely dissipate in time as your body become adjusted to the medication.

Impact of Serotonin

The reason for heightened anxiety symptoms may be related to the levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Low serotonin in the brain is thought to play an important role in causing both depression and anxiety. It is also believed that fluctuating serotonin levels during the early days of treatment might be the reason that some people feel anxiety as an antidepressant side effect.

Coping With Anxiety

There are several proactive ways to cope with anxiety. Practicing vigorous physical activity such as jogging, biking, or aerobics, and incorporating deep breathing exercises and muscle relaxation can positively impact how you feel.

You can also speak with your doctor about the following approaches:

  • Lowering your dose and gradually increasing it to the needed amount
  • Switching to another antidepressant
  • Temporarily using an anti-anxiety medication like a benzodiazepine (such as Ativan, Klonopin)

If you find that your anxiety is unbearably strong or is not getting better—especially if you are experiencing certain other symptoms like mania, worsening depression or suicidal thoughts—do not hesitate to immediately contact your physician or seek emergency help.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

You should not, however, stop taking your medication without first consulting with your doctor. Rapidly stopping your antidepressant may result in uncomfortable discontinuation symptoms or the reemergence of significant mood symptoms. 

Your doctor can best advise you on what to do in order to avoid this problem.

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