SSRIs vs SNRIs for Treating Anxiety

Anxiety is a common psychological disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, anxiety disorders are among the leading causes of disability and lowered quality of life. Several medications are used to treat anxiety, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These two types of antidepressants are among the most popular treatments for anxiety, but they differ in their mechanisms of action and effectiveness.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal response to stressful or dangerous situations. It is a natural mechanism that helps people to cope with negative experiences and avoid potential risks. However, when a person experiences excessive and persistent anxiety, it can interfere with their daily activities and cause significant distress. Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive, irrational, and persistent fear and worry about future events or present circumstances. These disorders include panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and specific phobias.

How SSRIs Work?

SSRIs are a type of antidepressant that increase the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating mood, cognition, and behavior. Serotonin acts as a natural mood stabilizer, and low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. SSRIs inhibit the reuptake of serotonin by neurons, leading to more serotonin availability throughout the brain. This mechanism increases serotonin activity and can help alleviate anxiety symptoms.

How SNRIs Work?

SNRIs are another type of antidepressant that affect serotonin levels, as well as norepinephrine levels. Norepinephrine is another neurotransmitter that is involved in the stress response. SNRIs inhibit the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine, leading to an increase in both neurotransmitters. This mechanism is thought to increase brain activity related to motivation, attention, and arousal, thus improving mood and reducing anxiety.

Effectiveness of SSRIs and SNRIs for Anxiety

SSRIs and SNRIs have been extensively studied for their effectiveness in treating anxiety disorders. The evidence suggests that both types of medications can be effective, but SNRIs may be more effective in some cases. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of anxiety disorders found that SNRIs were more effective than SSRIs in reducing symptoms of GAD, but there was no significant difference between the two for other anxiety disorders. However, SSRIs are generally considered safer and have fewer side effects compared to SNRIs.

Common Side Effects of SSRIs

SSRIs are generally well-tolerated by most people, but some common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction

Common Side Effects of SNRIs

SNRIs also have some common side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth

Choosing Between SSRIs and SNRIs

The choice between SSRIs and SNRIs depends on several factors, including the type and severity of anxiety disorder, individual preferences, and potential side effects. For mild to moderate anxiety, SSRIs may be sufficient, whereas SNRIs may be more effective for severe anxiety. Individuals who experience sexual dysfunction as a side effect of SSRIs may prefer SNRIs, which have a lower incidence of this side effect.


Anxiety is a common and debilitating condition that can significantly impair an individual’s quality of life. Antidepressants such as SSRIs and SNRIs are effective treatments for anxiety disorders. While both medications have some common side effects, SSRIs are generally considered safer and have fewer side effects compared to SNRIs. However, SNRIs may be more effective in some cases, especially for severe anxiety. The choice between SSRIs and SNRIs depends on individual factors and should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional.


FAQs about SSRIs vs SNRIs for Treating Anxiety

What Are SSRIs and SNRIs?

SSRIs and SNRIs are both types of antidepressant medications that are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. SNRIs, or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, work by increasing the amount of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.

Which One Is Better for Anxiety?

Both SSRIs and SNRIs can be effective treatments for anxiety, but it depends on the individual’s specific symptoms and needs. SSRIs are generally better for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety disorder, while SNRIs are often more effective for treating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder.

What are the Side Effects of SSRIs and SNRIs?

Common side effects of both SSRIs and SNRIs include nausea, dizziness, headache, and sexual dysfunction. However, each medication may have its own set of side effects that should be discussed with a healthcare provider. In rare cases, these medications can also increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors, especially in children, teens, and young adults.


1. Bandelow, B., Reitt, M., Röver, C., Michaelis, S., Görlich, Y., & Wedekind, D. (2015). Efficacy of treatments for anxiety disorders: A meta-analysis. International Clinical Psychopharmacology, 30(4), 183-192. doi: 10.1097/YIC.0000000000000078

2. Baldwin, D. S., Woods, R., Lawson, R., & Taylor, D. (2011). Efficacy of venlafaxine and SSRIs in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: Meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 199(4), 233-242. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.083756

3. Sánchez-Meca, J., Rosa-Alcázar, A. I., Marín-Martínez, F., & Gómez-Conesa, A. (2010). Psychological treatment of panic disorder with or without agoraphobia: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(1), 37-50. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2009.09.005