Drugs and Medications

Written by Amber Erickson Gabbey | Published on August 14, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on August 14, 2014

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder. Many people with depression feel sad or down for an extended period of time. Everyone has times when they feel sad, but clinical depression is ongoing and serious. It is characterized by general feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities or social outings and trouble getting general chores done. Talk to your doctor if you are exhibiting any of the common signs and symptoms of depression. Depression left untreated could have serious implications, like losing your job or relationships, or in more serious cases, suicidal thoughts.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

Symptoms of depression can vary in type and severity from person to person. Try to pay close attention to the types of symptoms your experience so you can explain them to your doctor. Some common symptoms of depression include:

  • sadness
  • tiredness
  • trouble focusing, concentrating or making decisions
  • anger, irritability or frustration
  • loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • trouble sleeping or getting too much sleep
  • isolation and avoiding or dropping out of social outings
  • not eating enough, eating too much or craving unhealthy foods
  • anxiety, excessive worry, or guilt
  • missing days or underperforming at work or school
  • suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • headache or muscle pain
  • drug or alcohol abuse

What Causes Depression?

While the exact cause of depression is unknown, there are a couple common areas to consider. Possible causes include:

  • genetic: Depression can run in families.
  • biochemical: Depression is thought to occur when neurotransmitters in the brain aren’t functioning properly.
  • hormonal: Depression can begin during a time of intense hormone change, like with childbirth or menopause.
  • seasonal: Depression could start with the season changes, most commonly from fall to winter. This type of depression is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
  • situational: Depression often starts after a traumatic life event, like an accident or losing a loved one.

How Is Depression Diagnosed?

Depression is difficult to diagnose because there aren’t any simple tests to take. Your doctor will do an evaluation and may refer you to a psychiatrist. During a mental health evaluation, your doctor will be looking for information on how your life is going, how you are feeling, and what types of thoughts you are having. Your doctor might suggest treatment for depression based on how this evaluation goes.

Medication To Treat Depression

The most common treatment options for depression include medication, psychotherapy or a combination. Every case of depression is different and will be treated differently. It may take time to find the best treatment plan for your case and symptoms.

SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)

This class of medications works by blocking serotonin absorption in the brain, which keeps levels higher. Serotonin affects mood, so having more around can help combat a depressive state.

SSRIs are often seen under the following names:

  • citalopram (Celexa)
  • escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • paroxetine (Paxil)
  • sertraline (Zoloft)
  • fluvoxamine (Luvox)

Common side effects of SSRIs include weight gain, sleep disturbances, and sexual problems.

SNRIs (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors)

This class of medications works by blocking absorption of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which keeps levels higher.

SNRIs are often seen under the following names:

  • venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • desvenlafaxine (Pristiz)

Common side effects include upset stomach, sleep issues, headache, sexual issues and high blood pressure.

NDRIs (Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors)

This class of medications works by blocking absorption of both norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which keeps levels higher. The one drug in this class is bupropion (Wellbutrin).

TCAs (Tricyclic Antidepressants)

This class of medications, an older class of antidepressants, may be helpful for people who don’t respond well to other options.

TCAs are often seen under the following names:

  • amitriptyline
  • imipramine (Tofranil)
  • nortriptyline (Pamelor)

Side effects can be more serious with TCAs and include hypotension, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation and urinary issues.

MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors)

This class of medications is known to have serious side effects but may be helpful for people who have tried other medications without any success.

MAOIs are often seen under the following names: phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate).

Side effects may be serious and include drug or food interactions, like cheese and wine or decongestants.

Benzodiazepines

This class of medications is often used for anxiety through minimizing muscle tension.

These medications are often seen under the following names:

  • alprazolam
  • clonazepam
  • diazepam
  • lorazepam

Some people have also had success with medications that aren’t classified as antidepressants. These include pharmaceuticals and supplements:

  • trazodone
  • mirtazapine
  • vilazodone (Viibryd)
  • St. John’s wort
  • SAMe
  • omega-3 fatty acids

Talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment plans.

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.

Article Sources:

More on Healthline

Easy Ways to Conceal an Epinephrine Shot
Easy Ways to Conceal an Epinephrine Shot
Learn how to discreetly carry your epinephrine autoinjectors safely and discreetly. It’s easier than you think to keep your shots on hand when you’re on the go.
Beyond Back Pain: 5 Warning Signs of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Beyond Back Pain: 5 Warning Signs of Ankylosing Spondylitis
There are a number of potential causes of back pain, but one you might not know about is ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Find out five warning signs of AS in this slideshow.
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
From first exposure to life-threatening complications, learn how quickly an allergy attack can escalate and why it can become life threatening.
Lifestyle Changes to Help Manage COPD
Lifestyle Changes to Help Manage COPD
Leading a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in your COPD symptoms. Learn more about basic changes that will make it easier to manage your COPD.
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
The symptoms of RA are more than just joint pain and stiffness. Common symptoms include loss of feeling, muscle pain, and more. Learn more in this slideshow.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement