According to the World Health Organisation, more than 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Nearly every person who lives through a major depressive episode will experience at least one recurrence over their lifetime.
Antidepressants are prescription drugs that treat major depressive disorders (MDDs). They’re also sometimes used to treat other mental health conditions such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Antidepressant medications are prescribed either alone or in combination with psychotherapy.
In extreme cases, depression can cause serious health complications such as suicide or death. These effects make it imperative that those suffering from depression seek proper treatment. Fortunately, several types of medication are available to treat moderate to severe depression.
Medication for Depression
There are several types of antidepressants. These include;
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NASSAs)
- Atypical antidepressants
Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. Determining whether or not a person’s depression warrants medication is the first step. Then it is time to decide which type of antidepression medication is appropriate. In general, antidepressants work best when they’re started early in the illness, at least two weeks after the onset of depression.
It takes four weeks for antidepressants to start working, so starting medication earlier means it’ll work sooner. However, this doesn’t mean patients should not try other drugs first. Sometimes, the patient feels worse while taking medication than they did before the prescription. Patients who think that their depression is getting worse may benefit from trying other treatments first.
Besides knowing whether or not you are depressed, it’s essential to understand the various types of depression meds.
1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
The primary class of antidepressants is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and feelings of happiness, sadness, anxiety, and more. When serotonin levels get low, people can experience depressive symptoms.
SSRIs block the enzyme responsible for reabsorbing serotonin back into the presynaptic neuron, thus increasing synaptic levels of serotonin. Because there are many different SSRIs, there are choices among these medications. Older generation SSRIs include; citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, and venlafaxine.
Newer-generation SSRIs are known as non-tricyclic antidepressants. These drugs increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine; two neurotransmitters thought to play a role in depression. Examples include bupropion, desipramine, nortriptyline, and protriptyline.
Common Side Effects of SSRIs
Weight Gain – The use of SSRIs may lead to significant increases in body weight. When using these drugs, talk to a doctor about the possibility of losing weight before beginning treatment.
Sexual Dysfunction – Patients taking SSRIs risk experiencing decreased libido, impotence, loss of ejaculation, and unable to get an erection.
Sweating – Some individuals report symptoms of excessive sweating while taking any antidepressant.
Increased Appetite – While this symptom is sometimes a benefit, it is also possible for patients to gain extra weight due to eating habits.
Trouble Falling Asleep – If sleep disorders are present, individuals taking SSRIs may feel more awake after taking their medication. These patients may wish to avoid taking medication just before bedtime for good rest.
2. Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
This class of antidepressants works by affecting both serotonin and norepinephrine. SNRIs can either affect only serotonin or both serotonin and norepinephrine. Examples include bupropion, milnacipran, reboxetine, and atomoxetine.
Common Side Effects of Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors
Tremors – This side effect does not disappear until the patient stops taking the medication. Patients who take these medications should avoid alcohol consumption if possible. In addition, they may need to decrease caffeine intake while taking them.
Dry Mouth – Many patients report dry mouth while using SSNRI antidepressants. You can treat this condition by drinking water and eating foods high in sugar.
Dizziness – Dizziness, nausea, headache, and fatigue are just a few symptoms caused by the SSNRI class of medications. If dizziness occurs while taking an SSNRI, discontinue use immediately to help alleviate the condition.
3. Tricyclics Antidepressants (TCAs)
Tricyclics affect the chemicals that connect nerve cells. Common ones include clomipramine, imipramine, desipramine, amitriptyline, nortriptyline, mianserin, lofepramine, trazodone, and tranylcypromine.
Common Side Effects of Tricyclics Antidepressants
Restlessness – Those who take tricyclic antidepressants experience restlessness in some cases. Sometimes this feeling is called “restless leg syndrome,” which can happen when a person lies down. This condition generally goes away after a few days. If it continues to bother the patient, talk to a doctor about switching antidepressants.
Constipation – Most people who take tricyclic antidepressants experience constipation at some point. Patients should increase their fiber intake and start drinking fruit juices.
Blurred vision – TCAs cause blurred vision, sometimes called “eye dryness.” Blurred vision may also occur if you accidentally ingest a more significant dose than you should.
4. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
MAOIs inhibit the metabolism of monoamines. Taking MAOIs increases serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels in the brain, resulting in a more significant antidepressant activity. Examples of MAOIs include isocarboxazid, phenelzine, and tranylcypromine.
Common Side Effects of Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Dizziness – Consult a physician when experiencing severe dizziness while taking MAOIs, especially after standing or lying down. Some people may need to avoid operating machinery or driving until their dizziness subsides.
Dry Mouth and Throat – Many patients who take MAOIs report having dry mouth and throat. Taking supplemental water can help reduce the discomfort caused by dry mouth.
Patients should contact a doctor immediately if they experience any side effects while using depression medication. Stopping the drug abruptly may make the symptoms worse.
A doctor may gradually reduce the dose or switch to a different type of medication. They may do this to help with any side effects from the drug.
Get Personalized Guidance as You Recover From Depression
When treating depression, remember that choosing the proper medication based on your specific needs and preferences is essential. D’Amore Mental Health helps patients with depression regain control over their lives. We develop personalized care plans based on evidence-based treatments that address the underlying causes.