After a diagnosis of depression, a doctor or mental health specialist will recommend treatments, that may include antidepressants or talking therapy, such as CBT or counselling.
What are depression medications?
Depression medications include many types of antidepressants and other mood stabilisers. They can help lift your mood and ease the sadness and hopelessness you feel. You’ll need to work with your doctor to find the depression medication that is most effective with the fewest side effects.
How do antidepressants work to treat depression?
It’s thought that three chemical messengers are involved with depression. These are the neurotransmitters noradrenaline (norepinephrine), serotonin, and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters transmit electrical signals between brain cells.
Researchers agree that if there is a chemical imbalance in these brain chemicals, then clinical states of depression result. Antidepressant medications work by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters or by changing the sensitivity of the receptors for these chemical messengers. It is believed that modifying these brain chemicals can help improve emotions.
What types of antidepressants help treat depression?
There are several types of antidepressants. These depression medications are also used to treat conditions that have depression as a component of the disease. For example, they might be used to treat bipolar disorder.
These drugs improve symptoms of depression. The major types of antidepressants include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). TCAs primarily affect the levels of two chemical messengers in the brain, noradrenaline and serotonin. Although these drugs are effective in treating depression, they can have more side effects than other drugs. So they typically aren't the first drugs used.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). MAOIs are most effective in people with depression who do not respond to other treatments. They are also effective for treating other mental illnesses. Substances in certain foods like cheese, beverages like wine, and medications can interact with an MAOI. So people taking this medication must adhere to strict dietary restrictions. For this reason these antidepressants also aren't usually the first drugs used.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are a newer form of antidepressant. These drugs work by altering the amount of a chemical in the brain called serotonin.
- Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SNRIs are another newer form of antidepressant medication. They treat depression by increasing availability of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline.
Are antidepressants safe?
As with all medications, antidepressants can have side effects. The side effects vary depending on the type of antidepressant you take. Possible side effects include insomnia, sleepiness, nausea, and sexual problems. If you're taking an antidepressant, read the information leaflet that comes with the medication, or ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any particular side effects you should know about.
Some antidepressants have been shown to increase suicidal thinking and behaviour in children and adolescents and should be used with caution.
Experts say that any young person taking any sort of antidepressant should be very closely, and frequently, monitored - especially in the early stages of treatment.
If your child has depression, be sure to talk to your doctor to determine if psychotherapy, antidepressant medication, or both, is right for your child.