Does Vitamin B Complex Work for Anxiety & Depression?

Many people have anxiety and depression. It is hard to handle it. Anxiety and depression are more than being sad or worried. You can be anxious where your stomach hurts or you feel sad all the time, which are things that happen with anxiety and depression.

vitamin B

Those who have anxiety and depression may experience symptoms like:

  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor memory
  • Restlessness or difficulty waking
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of hopelessness

If you have spoken to a doctor about anxiety and depression in the past, they might recommend that you take an SSRI or an SNRI medication in addition to therapy.

An SSRI is a type of drug that keeps serotonin in the brain from being reabsorbed. This makes you feel happy. It also is similar to SNRIs that keep both serotonin and norepinephrine from being reabsorbed, which means it also makes you feel less stressed out and calmer.

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For some people, these medications work great with therapy. For others, it does not always work right away. More research is needed to define B-vitamins’ role in depression and anxiety fully. Some studies show a correlation and warrant further study. But before we delve into the hypotheses of current research, let’s take a look at what each of the B-vitamin is and what they do.

What Are B-Vitamins?

For your body to work the way it should, it needs enough vitamins and nutrients. It might keep moving, but without enough of the right vitamins and nutrients, it will not do everything that is asked of it.

B vitamins are necessary for your body to be healthy. This group of vitamins includes:

Thiamine (B1): Deficiency of this vitamin can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which includes an inability to make new memories and only short term memory.

Thiamine is also helpful in treating PMS, weight loss, breast pain, adrenal fatigue and other symptoms associated with menstruation.

Riboflavin (B2): Also known as vitamin B2, this nutrient is involved in producing energy from carbohydrates. It also assists with healthy skin and hair and works to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by supporting cartilage elasticity.

It also helps prevent migraine headaches by keeping blood vessels flexible. Riboflavin may be useful for allergic reactions, including hay fever or anaphylaxis due to bee or other insect stings. Riboflavin can help relieve eye fatigue and supports the healthy metabolism of fats and amino acids. Riboflavin has been shown to play a role in preventing cataracts among people who smoke or are exposed to sunlight often.

Niacin (B3): Also known as vitamin B3, niacin helps the body use food for energy. It also helps break down and release energy from carbohydrates into the cells of the body. Niacin is necessary to maintain healthy skin and mucous.

This vitamin is used by more than 100 enzymes to release energy from glucose (sugar), fats and proteins. Niacin also helps synthesize DNA and RNA, support skin health by promoting healthy cell division and maintain normal nerves function.

Pantothenic Acid (B5): This nutrient must produce coenzyme A, which helps convert fats, protein and carbohydrates into energy. It also plays a role in the growth of cells and hormones, red blood cells and cholesterol.

Pyridoxine (B6): This vitamin is converted into pyridoxal phosphate, which plays a part in helping the body utilize many important amino acids (protein building blocks). Pyridoxine participates in producing red blood cells and antibodies; it helps produce steroid hormones and nerve tissue. It also aids the digestion of proteins, promotes mental alertness and supports cardiovascular health.

Biotin (B7): Biotin (Vitamin H) is necessary for the metabolism of all types of food, but especially carbohydrates and fats. It plays a part in protein synthesis and assists with healthy hair, skin, nails and reproduction.

Folic Acid (B9): Folic acid is known as folate in food. It is important to all cells of the body. It works with vitamin B12 & other vitamins to support red blood cell formation and healthy growth during pregnancy.

Cobalamin (B12): Cobalamin or vitamin B12 is really a complex of chemicals. It helps the body use fats and proteins for energy, which produces red blood cells and antibodies. Antibodies are needed to fight off bacteria & viruses.

Each one of these vitamins can pass through your body in water. They need to be replenished every day. These are included in a B-Complex vitamin.

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vitamin B sources

B-Vitamins are found naturally in many foods you might eat. These includes:

  • Milk and cheese
  • Meat, fish, and shellfish
  • Dark green vegetables, such as spinach and kale
  • Soy
  • Wheat germ
  • Vegetables, such as beets, avocados, and potatoes
  • Whole grains and cereals
  • Kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruits, such as citrus, banana, and watermelon
  • Yeast

B-Vitamins are found in many foods. Deficiency is not common, but it does happen. Those most at risk for a B-vitamin deficiency include people who have:

  • Crohn’s
  • Kidney conditions
  • Celiac disease
  • HIV
  • IBS
  • Old age
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Alcohol dependence

People who are strict vegetarians or vegans might need to eat more B-vitamins. But each person is different, and it depends on their body.

Symptoms of Low Vitamin B Complex:

  • Anemia
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Skin rash
  • Fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Numbness or tingling in extremities
  • Confusion
  • Irritability

Many of the symptoms on this list could be due to a B-vitamin deficiency, or they might be from another disease. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about what is wrong and what you can do.

Vitamin B For Anxiety & Depression

Adding B-vitamins to your diet can’t cure your anxiety and depression, but it might help with some symptoms. More research is needed, but it seems that B-vitamins might play a part in cognitive function. Low energy levels and trouble are concentrating that people who don’t have enough B-vitamins may experience.


Folate is a vitamin that helps with depression and anxiety. One study showed that people with low levels of folate had much worse depression than those who had normal levels. The other study found excellent results when women took folate while taking antidepressants that were not working. 93% of the women in this study showed a better response to the antidepressant while taking folate than taking a placebo.

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Niacin is one of the B vitamins that some scientists think should be studied more for affecting anxiety and depression. Niacin makes serotonin in your body. People who have depression or an anxiety disorder usually take medicine that increases serotonin levels in their brain, so maybe if they don’t have enough niacin, they won’t have enough serotonin. Scientists need to do more studies on things like this to see if giving people who suffer from anxiety and depression niacin supplements would help them.

Vitamin B-12

Studies show that there is a strong connection between B-12 deficiency and depression. One study found that ⅓ of depressed participants in the study had low levels of B-12. Participants who were deficient in B-12 were more than twice as likely to experience depression than healthy levels. This could mean that by raising your B-12 levels, you can lower your symptoms of depression and anxiety. More research is needed to verify this, though.

Bottom Line

B vitamins are a good way to help your body. They can’t make you feel better if you have anxiety or depression, but they may help with some symptoms. For instance, they might make you feel less tired and improve your concentration. But it is not a good idea to rely on B vitamins to treat anxiety or depression because there are other helpful things, like going for walks outside.

If you are taking medication, it is important not to stop without your doctor’s permission. And if you are thinking about taking over the counter medicines, talk to your doctor before making any changes.