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Unipolar depression in adults: Treatment with anxiolytics

Andrew Goddard, MD
Section Editor
Peter P Roy-Byrne, MD
Deputy Editor
David Solomon, MD


Unipolar major depression that includes high levels of anxiety symptoms (often called anxious depression) is common [1,2]. In a study of 2876 patients with major depression, high levels of anxiety were present in more than 50 percent [3].

Treatment of anxious depression frequently includes anxiolytic drugs [4]. In addition, insomnia that is part of the depressive syndrome often responds to anxiolytic (hypnotic) therapy [5].

This topic reviews the use of anxiolytics to treat unipolar major depression, including their indications, contraindications, administration, and efficacy. Choosing a medication regimen for the initial treatment of depression and for treatment resistant depression is discussed separately. (See "Unipolar major depression in adults: Choosing initial treatment" and "Unipolar depression in adults: Treatment of resistant depression".)


Unipolar major depression that includes high levels of anxiety symptoms is often called “anxious depression” [6]. The clinical features and diagnosis of anxious depression are discussed separately. (See "Unipolar depression in adults: Clinical features", section on 'Anxious' and "Unipolar depression in adults: Assessment and diagnosis", section on 'Depressive episode subtypes (specifiers)'.)  


Indications for augmenting antidepressants with anxiolytics to treat unipolar major depression include:


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Oct 9, 2015.
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