Medicines for Emotional Health

Updated 
August 31, 2015
Reviewed By: 

In some cases, your doctor might suggest you take medicine for anxiety or medicine for depression, to help support you through difficult periods.

Even if you are only mildly depressed or anxious, your doctor may recommend that you take medicine. Many different medicines are used to manage anxiety and depression that result from cancer and cancer treatment, or from a personal history of either.

Important Things to Remember About Medicines

  • There are several effective medicines that help with anxietyinfo-icon, depressioninfo-icon and sleep
  • These medicines all work differently and have different uses
  • All have potential side effects, which for some will lessen over time. If you take medicineinfo-icon and find it affects you in unexpected ways that bother you, consult with your doctor
  • Which medicines you are prescribed for anxiety, depression or trouble sleeping depends on many factors, including other medicines you take and your unique needs
  • These medicines can take several weeks to start working, so continue taking them as prescribed, even if you don’t feel better right away

Depression Medicines That Can Affect Your Cancer Treatment

One family of antidepressants, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), can affect the way your body breaks down tamoxifeninfo-icon, a treatment for hormoneinfo-icon-sensitive breast cancer.

Research shows that some SSRIs may reduce tamoxifen’s effectiveness. These include:

This same research shows other SSRIs like citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexaproinfo-icon), and fluvoxamine (Luvox) have a similar effect, but to a lesser extent.

There are two SNRIs which do not negatively impact tamoxifen's effect. Other SNRIs, like duloxetineinfo-icon (Cymbalta), do interfere with tamoxifen. So, if you are taking tamoxifen, make sure you discuss these concerns with your doctor.

Talk with your oncologistinfo-icon before starting any medicines or supplements that are not part of your regular cancer treatment. As with your breast cancer treatments, report any side effects.

You should not stop taking medicineinfo-icon without consulting your providers. Abruptly stopping medicines for depressioninfo-icon and anxietyinfo-icon is dangerous, and can result in serious, potentially life-threatening side effects. Your healthcare providerinfo-icon can help you safely taper your medicines.

Get more information on specific types of and possible side effects of medicines from the National Institute of Mental Health.