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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

Doctors Target Two Brain Chemicals to Treat Depression, Anxiety

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Effexor is currently the only drug approved to treat both generalized anxiety disorder and depression.

But "there's a whole series of other studies in the area of anxiety disorders and new medications that are in development that target both brain chemicals," says Silverstone. One such drug, Remeron, is currently available.

The most important message is to "obtain treatment, and if it doesn't seem to be working, try something else that's more aggressive, because today, there can be success where there wasn't before," he says.

"Most people with depression will also have anxiety, and the issue is whether it is a separate disorder," says Ira D. Glick, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. As many as 90% of people with depression suffer from some symptoms of anxiety, and the two conditions also have certain overlapping symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping, fatigue, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating.

Once a doctor has determined whether the two are distinct problems, the good news is that "we have many more choices with drugs with better side-effect profiles today that help patients and families cope with crippling depression and anxiety that can cause great distress throughout life," he says.

Most drugs take about four to six weeks to kick in, he says.

"There is hope," he says. "These [drugs] do help, and they can be taken for a lifetime."

Effexor also appears to help middle-aged and older women cope with anxious depression as they adjust to menopause, according to research presented at the World Assembly for Mental Health in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Anxiety and depression are inextricably linked, says David Baron, MSed, DO, professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

"A patient who appears depressed one day may be anxious a week later, so specific labeling isn't that important," he says.

"Depression has a gradual onset and offset, but anxiety is more like a rock in your shoe -- you know right away," he says. That's why it's important to stay on antidepressants long enough to see them work.

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