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Antidepressants 'could be used to treat anxiety'


Two common antidepressants could be used by people who suffer from anxiety after tests showed they reduced the condition within three hours, a new study has claimed.

An Oxford University neuroscientist looked at the effect citalopram and reboxetine, which target serotonin and noradrenaline neurotransmitters in the brain respectively, had on a group of 42 healthy patients.

The volunteers were given either one of the two drugs or a placebo before being shown a photograph with two faces on it, one with a neutral expression and the other looking fearful. In measuring reaction time, patients given one of the two drugs displayed a reduced vigilance to the fearful facial expression.

Dr Susannah Murphy, of the university’s Psychopharmacology and Emotion Research Laboratory, told the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ International Congress in Edinburgh that the treatments could be used to enhance psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

She said: “It’s quite extraordinary that these changes take place so early. It really challenges us to think quite differently about the way antidepressants work. It’s a different message for patients - as soon as you start taking the drugs, it starts changing the way the brain works. It doesn’t have to take weeks.”


Readers' comments (8)

  • I'm not sure where the news is here as anti-depressants have been used to treat anxiety for years. I am not convinced by the methodology of showing someone a picture with a 'fearful face' either. What does 'reduced vigilance' mean? They weren't as bothered by the face the second time they saw it?

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  • debra fretwell

    i have taken citalopram for my generalised anxiety disorder for approx 6 months, after trying 2 other antid's previously this has been by far the most successful in conjunction with CBT and as the other comments mention this is nothing new!

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  • Being prescribed antidepressants certainly helped alleviate my anxiety and stress - both Prozac and Cymbalta are the ones I noted alleviated my stress and anxiety. I am surprised that this has only just been recognised

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  • This peice of 'research' is pointless. It is well known in the field of psychiatry that citalopram is prescibed for anxiety, and has been done for many many years. And has been amazingly effective. It is even classified in the bloody BNF as being liscenced for anxiety!! How is this news?? this is ridiculous!!

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  • After the comments so far, what more can one say. Except perhaps reinventing the wheel!!!

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  • Don't we have better things to research than what's so obvious. Money wasted once again. My mum could've told them that!

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  • Why can't doctors and patients take responsibility for their own problems and actions instead of wasting yet more precious resouces on these trivialities while other patients are unable to receive life saving care or important treatments to improve their quality of life such as pain control or adequate paliative care because of restrictions in our finite resources? It simply does not make sense!

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  • while on the subject of research, the highly questionable value of some of it and vast waste of precious and limited resources which should be devoted to providing the best possible patient care - why is it that nurses cannot be paid more to work at the bedside where they are needed and doing what they have been trained for instead of luring them away to engage in expensive and often useless activities that is often labelled research? The wastage is appaling and a disgrace and is only an excuse for lack of funding and poor quality of care. If resources are used wisely many shortages and reduction in quality could be avoided. Surely every human life is unique, extremely precious and should be looked after to the best of everybody's ability - including healthcare workers.

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