Some have strong opinions about antidepressants and whether they should be taken, concerned about side effects, psychological dependence, or addiction. Yet, many people find antidepressants can help them through different phases of depression and help them better cope.
Deciding to use an antidepressant as a treatment option is a personal decision involving a collaborative effort with your doctor. Doing your research, learning more about antidepressants, and talking with your doctor can help you make a choice that is right for you.
Antidepressants are medications used to treat depression. They have effects on neurotransmitters, reduce the biological impact of stress on the brain, reduce neuroinflammation – inflammation in the brain or spinal cord, and increase the brain’s capacity to deal with future stress.
They don’t work immediately; it may take a few weeks for you to feel the effects. There are different kinds of antidepressants, and you might have to try more than one before finding the one that is right for you.
Common classes of antidepressants used to help treat depression include:
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- tricyclic antidepressants
- dopamine reuptake blocker
- 5-HT1A receptor antagonists
- 5-HT2 receptor antagonists
- 5HT-3 receptor antagonists
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- noradrenergic antagonist
There are also atypical antidepressants, as well as natural supplements that may help boost the therapeutic effects of antidepressants.
There are many benefits to taking antidepressants. Being aware of these benefits can help you make an informed decision.
They are effective at relieving symptoms
Antidepressants have been found to be more
They are well-studied and generally safe
Antidepressants have all been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means they have gone through rigorous testing and clinical trials.
They can help you succeed with other parts of your treatment plan
Your treatment plan can involve a variety of things, including things like performing basic self-care tasks. If your depression makes you apathetic and lethargic, antidepressants can help restore your energy so you can do everyday activities, participate in therapy, and other items on your treatment plan.
Improved quality of life
In addition to mood benefits, people on antidepressants report an
Finding a doctor if you think you need antidepressants
Finding treatment for depression is a big step and isn’t always easy. If you think you need antidepressants, a healthcare professional can do screenings and talk about your symptoms with you to evaluate your situation.
- Talk with your primary care provider. They can screen for depression, and some prescribe antidepressants. Others may prescribe them and refer you to a counselor for talk therapy as well.
- Ask your doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist. This is especially important if your depression is severe or you have other medical or mental health conditions.
If you don’t have a primary care provider, there are many organizations that can help you find a psychiatrist or mental health professional near you. Here are a few:
- American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Find a Psychiatrist search
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline
- Anxiety & Depression Association of America Find a Therapist Directory
- Black Mental Health Alliance’s Connect with a Therapist search
- American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry’s Find a Physician search
- World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) provider directory
As with any medication, there can be cons to taking antidepressants. These may be different for each person, but being aware of them can help you prepare. Talking with your doctor about any of the drawbacks can help you reassess your medication. In this discussion, the cons must be compared with the pros.
You may need to try several to find the right one for you
Not every antidepressant will work for every person. You might have to switch more than once to find the best medication for you and your symptoms.
They may affect your sex drive
Antidepressants may reduce your sex drive or sexual functioning. Some antidepressants are more likely than others to have sexual side effects.
They can affect your sleep and/or your weight
Although disrupted sleep is a common complaint of people with depression, it is not usually clear whether it is a side effect of medication or a residual symptom of depression. Overall, antidepressants may help
Some antidepressants list weight gain as a side effect. Everyone is different and responds to medications differently. Sometimes the reason for weight gain is because daily activities like making meals or going out with friends are occurring again and involve food. An improved mood can increase your appetite as well. Other antidepressants carry a lower risk of weight gain. As a whole, the potential for weight gain should not be a factor in your decision about antidepressants.
They may be costly
Even with insurance and generic prescriptions, the medication might still be financially difficult for some people. Although prescription cost is governed by your insurance provider and plan, it may be useful to work with your doctor to see if the doctor needs to provide an authorization request to your insurance company, help you find a more affordable option, or provide you with samples or coupons they can give you.
They may have side effects
Side effects can be annoying, especially at first, like dry mouth, fatigue, nausea, or headache. The good news is that these minor side effects tend to pass within a few weeks. If you continue to have side effects or there are other significant side effects that don’t go away, talk with your doctor.
If you choose to stop, you can’t stop abruptly
If you decide to stop taking antidepressants, abrupt stopping is not recommended, as withdrawal symptoms can occur. Don’t stop taking your medication until you’ve talked with your doctor. They might put you on a tapering plan or switch you to a new medication. They can also monitor you for any withdrawal symptoms.
Antidepressants are generally a safe and effective treatment option for depression. There are various classes of antidepressants, and different drugs within each class. Finding the right one for you can take time, and you might have to try more than one before you find the medication that works best for you.