facts about antidepressant medication

What All People with Depression Need to Know About Medication

While counseling is a powerful tool in the fight against depression, some people need more help. When patients and their doctors decide to turn to medication as a depression treatment, it can make people understandably nervous. After all, antidepressants are mind-altering substances by their nature.

Unfortunately, myths surrounding mental health medication can make the process of starting treatment seem particularly worrisome. It’s vital for patients with depression to understand a few basic facts about their treatment options before they start taking prescription medication for their illness.

Medication Options for Depression

Depression can come in many different forms, including postpartum depression and bipolar disorder. Furthermore, two patients with the same diagnosis often experience different symptoms and developed the disorder as a result of unique causes. The options for depression medication are as diverse as the disorder itself, including:

    • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): This type of medication is usually well tolerated with fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants. SSRIs are also safer than most antidepressants at high dosages. As such, doctors often turn to these medications first.
    • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): When patients present with anxiety disorders or chronic pain, doctors may turn to SNRIs instead of SSRIs first. Furthermore, many patients with depression find success on these medications when SSRIs do not provide enough relief.
  • Atypical Antidepressants: When patients struggle with side effects on SSRIs or SNRIs, doctors may put them on medications that do not fall exactly into either of those groups. Depending on the specific side effects they want to avoid, patients may take medications such as Viibryd, Wellbutrin, or Remeron.
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs): This category is the riskiest type of depression medication. Patients on MAOIs risk having dangerous and even fatal side effects if they do not stick to a very strict diet.

How Effective are Depression Medications?

According to recent research, all depression medications work better than placebos. However, some prescriptions have higher effectiveness rates than others. Furthermore, no pill will work for every patient. Instead, some patients have to try two or more medications before they find a treatment that works for them.

For this reason, doctors typically schedule follow-up appointments for patients on new antidepressants. At this time, doctors make recommendations on whether patients should change medications or stay on their current prescriptions. Follow-up appointments often take place several weeks after the initial prescription.

That’s because it takes time for the medications to build up and take effect. Patients often do not notice significant changes in their symptoms for at least two weeks. However, the timelines vary depending on the type of medication and the dose.

Both therapy and medication are more effective in combination with one another than they are alone. As such, patients should consider attending therapy sessions while they take depression medications.

Side Effects and Risks Associated with Depression Medications

Although depression medications can be incredibly helpful and even life-saving, they are not without risks. Depending on the prescriptions, side effects can include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Increased appetite
  • Decreased sexual desire and function
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Thoughts of suicide in some patients

It’s important for patients to remember that psychiatrists do not prescribe antidepressants unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you’re ready to see the benefits of antidepressants, contact a FLBH clinic today.