If you are hesitant to take a medication, that makes sense. No one should agree to a prescription drug until they fully understand why they need it and what it does. This is a vital form of self-care. So, if you’re struggling with depression, it’s logical for you to ask lots of questions if and when an antidepressant is suggested.
Therefore, it can be helpful here to introduce a discussion in the name of answering the question in the title. How can medication help treat depression? Let’s explore the details behind this option and help you get informed and make the best possible decisions.
What Are Antidepressants and How Do They Work?
Antidepressant medicines are designed to treat more than depression. They may be prescribed for anxiety disorders like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and disordered eating. For the purposes of this post, of course, we’ll focus on depression.
An antidepressant is meant to affect brain chemicals like norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Generally speaking, if you keep these neurotransmitters present at high enough levels, it should be enough to decrease the odds of a mood disorder like depression. Needless to say, effectiveness varies from person to person.
Are There Different Types of Antidepressants?
Short answer: yes. Each group of medications works differently in the body and may stay in the body for different amounts of time. Here are some grouping examples:
- SNRIs (serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors)
- SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
- Serotonin modulator
- Tetracyclic antidepressants and analogs
- Tetracyclic of mianserin
- Noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors
- TCAs (Tricyclic antidepressants)
- RIMAs (Reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase A)
- MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
- Melatonergic antidepressants
A few details to keep in mind on how a drug is selected and suggested:
- It’s not about which one is “best.” Medication is prescribed based on your specific case. This may involve cost, co-existing conditions, other medications you are taking, your symptoms, and potential side effects.
- Choosing the correct medication often means trying more than one and modulating dosage.
- Family history matters. If someone in your family has been treated for depression, the doctor will consider any drugs that were effective for them.
- The standard approach involves beginning with a low dose. This can and usually is increased until you’ve either reached the therapeutic dose, or you show improvement.
- Antidepressants are not addictive.
What About Side Effects?
Each different medication has its own warning. Each individual person responds differently. Hence, this is one of the most important conversations you’ll have before agreeing to try an antidepressant. To follow is a list of side effects that may arise regardless of which drug you use:
- Exhaustion, fatigue, low energy, drowsiness
- Weight gain
- Decreased sex drive
- Dry mouth
- Heavy sweating
- Blurry vision
- Bladder problems
- Increased heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
What About Suicidal Thoughts?
Speaking of important conversations, you will want to talk to your doctor and therapist about anything extreme like this. Talk about block box labels and the research that shows SSRIs may induce suicidal thoughts in about 4 percent of people. The risk is low — usually lower than suicidal ideation caused by depression — but, again, knowledge is power.
What’s the Next Step?
I trust this post laid a strong foundation for you on this crucial topic. Even so, there’s still a lot more to talk about. To get this important discussion, I invite you to reach out. Let’s connect for a free and confidential consultation to get your questions answered.
Depression is a challenge but about 8 in 10 people recover from it. Your path to healing almost certainly runs through a therapy office. Let’s get you started on that journey with medication management.