When an SNRI Might be a Better Treatment Option Than an SSRI

When it comes to adding an anxiety medication to your treatment plan, some may benefit from an SSRI ( Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) while others may find an SNRI ( Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor) to be more effective.

But what does the research say?

Research has shown that both SSRI and SNRI medications can be equally effective when it comes to treating anxiety disorders.

One study published by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, in its publication Depression and Anxiety, found that when it comes to treating anxiety disorders, both medications are equally effective, however, they did find that both medications are most effective in specifically treating social anxiety disorder.

When it comes to treating anxiety that coexists with depression, there is some evidence to suggest that SNRIs might be more effective in treating depression. However, these differences are slight, and ultimately it comes down to how each person metabolizes the medication, and the exact symptoms they are experiencing.

Some may experience symptoms of anxiety that include extreme fatigue that results in abnormally low energy levels and excessive amounts of sleep.

For these people, sometimes an SNRI has proven to be beneficial, in that it tends to be more activating due to its impact on the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. This particular neurotransmitter can play a role in the body’s stress response, and also helps to regulate sleep, memory, mood, and even blood pressure.

In cases where norepinephrine levels are potentially too low, the result can be lower energy levels, decreased levels of alertness, decreased cognitive ability, and difficulties with attention and concentration. Given that untreated anxiety can have all of these symptoms as well, in a case such as this, it may prove beneficial to try an SNRI, especially if the anxiety is experienced along with depression.

When it comes to the research that suggests that an SNRI may be more effective in treating depression-induced anxiety, the advantage is somewhat modest. In fact, according to a 2008 study published by the National Library of Medicine, which analyzed several studies on the effect of SNRIs versus SSRIs, they found consistent evidence that the SNRI venlafaxine may have greater efficacy than the SSRIs as a class, but again, the difference was slight.

Following a meta-analysis of several studies on the efficacy of SNRI vs SSRIs, researchers did find dome consistent evidence that the SNRI duloxetine, specifically may be slightly more effective in treating patients with severe depression. Of course, this all comes down to the individual and their body’s particular response to the medication. However, for those experiencing severe symptoms of depression alongside their anxiety symptoms, SNRIs such as duloxetine may worth exploring with your doctor, especially if SSRIs haven’t been as effective as hoped.

The Bottom Line:  When it comes to finding out which medications are more effective in treating your anxiety: SSRIs or SNRIs, it really comes down to working with your doctor. Together you can work to find the best medication for your particular mental health concerns and, with a little bit of trial and error, find what works best for you.

It’s important to remember when taking any medication, to pay attention to any side effects you may be experiencing and speak to your doctor about your concerns. Many of the side effects do pass once the body has had time to adjust to the new medication, however, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes side effects can be helpful information to determine if a medication is at either too high or too low of a dose or if it needs to be changed altogether.

In our next article, we will take a look at the role SNRIs play when it comes to serotonin levels and it’s effects on anxiety and mood, and compare them to that of SSRIs.

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