Some investigators have found benzodiazepines effective in the treatment of anxious depression and thus have argued that benzodiazepines were "antidepressants." We reviewed the literature on benzodiazepines in depressive disorders. Comparative studies indicate they are less effective than standard antidepressants in the treatment of several types of depressive illnesses. Although they display definite anxiolytic properties and may elevate mood, they exert limited effect on the core symptoms of endogenous depression. An argument is made that benzodiazepines are primarily anxiolytic rather than antidepressant.