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Medications to Treat Depression

by Emily Brown King
  • Overview

    Medications to Treat Depression
    Medications to Treat Depression
    Depression affects millions of Americans every year. There is a certain stigma attached to depression and some people mistakenly believe you can just snap out of your bad mood. Doctors and scientists have found this simply is not true. Depression is a medical disorder that affects the nervous system and brain chemicals. The upside to this is that there are medications available that can treat depression.
  • Types

    Depression is usually treated with some type of antidepressant medication. The most commonly prescribed are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Popular brand names of different drugs in this category include Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro and Celexa. Tricyclic antidepressants include Elavil, Norpramin, Tofranil, Aventyl and Pamelor. Monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) medications include Nardil and Parnate. Several other antidepressants have been developed that work slightly differently than other categories. They include Effexor, Wellbutrin, Serzone, Remeron and Desyrel.
  • Function

    The function of an SSRI medication is to regulate the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood. It works by slowing down the release of serotonin from the brain to help stabilize emotions. On the other hand, tricyclic antidepressants influence two brain chemicals: serotonin and norepinephrine. Both of these chemicals are thought to influence mood. MAOIs are similar to tricyclic medications, except that they also deal with dopamine, an additional neurotransmitter in the brain.
  • Benefits

    SSRIs are the most popularly prescribed antidepressant because they can be effective but have fewer side effects than the other medications. Other antidepressants may be used when the patient has not had success with an SSRI. MAOIs are often successful when other drugs are not. The same is true with newer uncategorized medications. The benefit of trying a tricyclic antidepressant is that they have been around for a long time. There is a lot more scientific research and study of long-term effects for tricyclic medication than with other antidepressants.
  • Side Effects

    As with all medications, there are possible side effects with antidepressants. Though SSRIs commonly have the least severe side effects, they can still cause some negative symptoms. The most common side effects are nausea, nervousness, insomnia, tiredness and decreased sexual function. Tricyclic medications can cause blurred vision, dry mouth and complications of glaucoma, increased blood pressure and heart rate. MAOIs sometimes cause tremors, headaches, weakness and dizziness. Other medications vary depending on the brand and should be studied individually. Some antidepressants can work adversely in children and teens, causing thoughts of suicide.
  • Alternatives

    If you don't want to try a prescribed antidepressant, there are also many alternative treatments and herbal supplements available. Many people have success with these types of alternative medications. However, herbal supplements are not usually studied by the FDA, so the research on them is usually sparse. St. John's wort is an herb that is popular for treating the symptoms of mild and moderate depression. Other supplements include SAM-e and omega-3 fatty acids. Certain vitamins such as B and D are also thought to influence nervous system health. Always talk to your doctor before trying an alternative medicine. A lot of these medicines have harmful and sometimes life-threatening interactions with other medications.

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