A Quick Guide To Depression Medication

in Depression Treatment


Depression medication is often a necessary and effective part of treatment, especially when depression is biologically based.

To be clear, all forms of depression affect a person’s biochemistry in some way, but in certain cases, one may have a genetic predisposition to depression while in other cases, life events, negative thought patterns or other external circumstances change the person’s biochemistry over time.

The biochemistry of depression is complicated, so finding the right medication for depression and the correct dose can be difficult.

It may take some time before a patient and his or her doctor are able to determine whether a patient needs depression medication and, if so, which medication and what dose will work best for that particular person’s symptoms.

How Do Depression Medications Work?

Before learning about how depression medications work, it’s helpful to understand what they do not do.

Antidepressants do not boost mood in people who are not suffering from the biologically-based medical condition referred to as clinical depression.

They are not “happy pills” that a person can take to escape stress or a bad mood.

Depression medications work by balancing levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals regulate emotions and control mood by sending messages through pathways in the brain.

The neurotransmitters that are most closely related to depression are serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

When levels of these brain chemicals are low, a person feels symptoms of depression like sadness, fatigue or the inability to feel pleasure.

Most medications for depression work in one of two ways.

They either prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters so that the chemicals are available to circulate through the nervous system in adequate amounts or they make the brain more sensitive to the presence of these chemicals if the levels are already normal.

Finding the right medication depends on which neurotransmitter is needed and whether the problem is low levels of the chemical or in the fact that the brain is not responding to its presence.

An Anti Depression Medication List

There are several types of antidepressants. Each works on a different neurotransmitter and some work on more than one.

1. MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors)

This class of medications deactivates enzymes that break down substances required to build neurotransmitters.

In other words, MAOIs keep more of the materials needed to make neurotransmitters available so the body can create them.

Drugs in this class include phenelzyine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate).

2. Tricyclics

Tricyclic antidepressants work on the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. They include desipramine, nortriptyline and maprotiline.

3. SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)

The newest and most commonly prescribed antidepressants, SSRIs work by preventing serotonin from being reabsorbed so that the brain has more of it available to use.

Fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), setraline (Zoloft) and citalopram (Celexa) are all SSRIs.

4. Bupropion

This medication is in its own class and is used primarily for its affect on dopamine levels.

There are also depression medications that work on both norepinephrine and serotonin. These include amitriptyline (Elavil), imipramine and venlafaxine (Effexor).

Depression Medication Side Effects

All medications have side effects, and depression medications are no different. Tricyclic antidepressants have the most side effects of all the depression medication types.

These side effects include sleepiness, blurred vision, dry mouth, difficulty releasing urine, constipation, headaches, confusion, dizziness, light sensitivity, sexual dysfunction, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, weight gain, appetite increase, weakness, and nausea.

There is also a serious danger of overdose with tricyclic antidepressants.

Because of the long list of side effects and safety issues, tricyclics are usually prescribed only as a last resort, especially since there are newer, safer medications available in SSRIs.

SSRIs tend to have fewer or milder side effects, and the newest medications in this class are usually well-tolerated.

Some people experience difficulty sleeping, upset stomach, dizziness or jitteriness when they begin taking SSRIs.

MAOIs produce unwanted side effects when they react with certain foods, specifically those that contain the amino acid tyramine and monosodium glutamate.

For this reason, people who take MAOIs must be put on strict diets.

Treating Depression Without Medication

It is possible to treat depression without the use of depression medication. However, the decision to do so should be made carefully.

Many people find that they can wean off of medication or avoid using it in the first place with the proper combination of other therapies, which may include traditional talk therapy, diet, exercise or the use of herbal remedies.

Depression bookYou can find more information about a variety of ways to manage depression in End Your Depression.

In End Your Depression, you are given specific steps to take to overcome the symptoms of your depression and the information you need to decide whether or not prescription medications are a good option for you.


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