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Medication or Therapy For Anxiety and Depression?

writtenByWritten by: Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Ken Cosby M.D.
Reviewer

Ken Cosby M.D.

Dr. Ken Cosby received his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine (Washington, DC) and completed his research post-doc work at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health including the National Heart Lung Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute.

March 1, 2021 Read Time - 5 minutes

Medication vs Therapy

For those struggling with anxiety or depression, it can be hard to know whether to seek medication, therapy, or both to deal with symptoms. There isn’t a simple answer to the question of medication vs therapy, because everybody is different, and no two treatment plans will be exactly the same.

To help make an informed decision, here is some information about therapy and medication for anxiety and depression.

Is Therapy More Effective Than Medication?

When it comes to therapy vs medication, the short answer is that it depends on you. While some people respond well to either therapy or medication, many people respond best to both. 

  • For anxiety disorders, research indicates that therapy is often more effective than medication.
  • For depression, evidence suggests that therapy and medication work best together rather than individually.

Additionally, the effectiveness of any treatment depends on a patient’s willingness to stick with a treatment plan. Both medication and therapy take time to work, and neither works well if only done sporadically. 

  • Take your free mental health assessment.

    Your results will help determine which type of support you may benefit from the most.

  • Meet with a top doctor, get an official diagnosis and prescription treatment plan.

  • Sit back and have your prescription delivered to your door.

Get My Prescription Online PlushCare-App-Steps

What Is the Most Effective Therapy?

There are many different types of therapy, and there is no single type that’s better than the others. It depends on each individual.

The most common types of therapy include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
  • Mentalization-Based Therapy
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Interpersonal Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Read: Outpatient Mental Health


What is the Most Effective Medication for Anxiety and Depression?

There are many different types of medication for anxiety and depression. Everybody responds differently to medication, so there is not a single medication that is the most effective for treating anxiety or depression.

The most common kinds of medication for anxiety and depression include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) (like Prozac, Celexa, and Paxil) which work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin, leaving more in the brain, which can improve the mood.
  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) (like Cymbalta and Effexor) which increase the levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine.
  • Benzodiazepines (like Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan) are a popular anti-anxiety medication, especially for short-term use. However, they are a controlled substance and can’t be prescribed by online doctors.
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (like Elavil, Tofranil, and Pamelor) are effective in treating some anxiety disorders, but they have a higher risk of side effects, more than other medications.

Which Is Right for Me: Therapy or Medication?

When you’re trying to decide between medication vs therapy, there are many factors to consider. Regardless of which treatment you pursue, you must be consistent with it. Are you prepared to take medication every day? Are you able to attend therapy online or in person at least once a week?

If you can commit to therapy, medication, or both, it’s best to talk to a doctor or mental health professional about which treatment is best for you.

  • Take your free mental health assessment.

    Your results will help determine which type of support you may benefit from the most.

  • Meet with a top doctor, get an official diagnosis and prescription treatment plan.

  • Sit back and have your prescription delivered to your door.

Get My Prescription Online PlushCare-App-Steps

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Therapists Recommend Medications?

Therapists can’t recommend or prescribe specific medications. However, they may suggest that you seek out medication from a primary care physician or a psychiatrist if they feel you would benefit from it.


Read: Can Primary Care Physicians Prescribe Antidepressants?


Which Are the Top Antidepressants?

According to a 2018 study, the most effective antidepressants are:

  • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Vortioxetine (Trintellix or Brintellix)

The medications with the lowest incidence of side effects are:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Vortioxetine (Trintellix or Brintellix)

With this information, the best antidepressants may be:

  • Vortioxetine (Trintellix or Brintellix)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

That said, everyone responds differently to medication and what works for one person may not work for you.

Is Medication or Therapy Better for Anxiety?

Research indicates that therapy may be more effective than medication when treating anxiety. However, individual results may vary.

Therapy is helpful for many because it gives them space to address and process many of the core issues that may be causing their anxiety. Therapy for anxiety disorder provides emotional support to help participants overcome their anxiety triggers and reduce their stress response.

Those taking medication and going to therapy often see the fastest recovery as medication helps them manage their symptoms, while therapy provides lasting coping strategies and emotional development.

  • Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  • Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  • Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Talk to an Online Therapist PlushCare-App-Steps

Get Therapy Online

With PlushCare’s new online therapy program, you can get the depression or anxiety treatment you need from the comfort and privacy of home. For only $65 per session (billed monthly), you get a 45-minute therapy session once a week, plus unlimited access to PlushCare’s licensed doctors and care team of nurses.

While the service is only available to California, Texas and Florida residents, for now, PlushCare will be expanding the program, and it may be an option for you in the near future.

Get Mental Health Medication Online

If you think you would benefit from medication in addition to or instead of therapy, you can get prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications from PlushCare’s trusted doctors.

After an online phone or video appointment, if the doctor thinks you would benefit from medication, they can electronically send it to your local pharmacy.

There may be some websites claiming they can mail you mental health medication directly. However, United States law requires an appointment with a doctor before anybody receives medication, so such websites are skirting the law.

To schedule an appointment to get mental health medication online, click here or download the PlushCare App for free.

Please note: online doctors cannot prescribe controlled substances.


Read More About Therapy and Medication for Anxiety and Depression

Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

American Psychological Association. How Do I Choose Between Medication and Therapy? Accessed on November 17, 2020 at https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/medication-or-therapy

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Psychology. Accessed on November 17, 2020 at https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Psychotherapy

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Medication. Accessed on November 17, 2020 at https://adaa.org/finding-help/treatment/medication

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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