Depression is a serious mental health condition that is both common and highly treatable. It can have many possible underlying causes, such as genetic factors, environmental factors, and life events. While there are a variety of treatments that can be effective in treating depression, including talk therapy and alternative treatments like TMS therapy, medication is usually the first-line treatment for managing symptoms of depression. In this blog post, we will explore the various types of prescription drugs used to treat depression. We will also discuss the best types of depression medications for young adults and those with seasonal affective disorders or anxiety disorders.
Antidepressants: Choosing The Best Mental Health Medications
Depression is a common condition that affects millions of people around the world. Its symptoms can range from mild to severe. When medication is indicated, it can be life-changing. But, antidepressants don’t work for everyone and there are many different classes of antidepressant drugs available. Identifying the right one for your unique symptoms and health goals is essential.
Antidepressant medications work by altering brain chemistry in order to relieve symptoms of depression. There are many different types of antidepressants on the market today, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Some common antidepressants include SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), SNRIs (serotonin noradrenergic receptor antagonists), tricyclics, MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), and atypical antidepressants or newer antidepressants like bupropion.
While all antidepressants have their own benefits and drawbacks, they all share two key features: they are safe and effective in relieving symptoms of depression, and they are generally well-tolerated. However, there are a few antidepressants that stand out for their effectiveness and safety profile: SSRIs like Prozac or Paxil; SNRIs like venlafaxine or duloxetine; tricyclics like amitriptyline or imipramine; MAOIs like selegiline or moclobemide; as well as bupropion Extended Release (XL).
Beyond simply alleviating symptoms, antidepressant medications have other benefits too. For example, SSRIs can also help improve mood stability over time by helping prevent episodes from returning; SNRI Venlafaxine has been shown to improve general functioning such as self-esteem, social interactions, productivity, feelings of well-being, memory function, and physical function, while bupropion XL has been shown to be particularly effective at treating motivation, energy levels, and focus in adults with major depressive disorder.
However, not everyone experiences positive effects from antidepressant medications. There are also several potential side effects associated with these drugs, including sexual dysfunction; increased anxiety; weight gain; weight loss; insomnia; nausea; diarrhea; dry mouth; dizziness or lightheadedness; suicidal thoughts.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of medication that is used to treat depression and other mental illnesses. They are the most common type of antidepressant. SSRIs are used to treat mild depression, moderate depression, and severe depression alike.
Some of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and escitalopram (Lexapro). These medications are usually well-tolerated and have few side effects, although some people may experience side effects can including:
- Weight gain
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite or weight loss
These side effects can usually be managed with proper treatment. It is crucial to speak with your doctor about any potential side effects before taking an SSRI or other antidepressants.
SSRIs work by blocking the serotonin transporters in the brain. Serotonin transporters are responsible for removing serotonin from synapses in the brain when the body no longer needs them. This is why SSRIs are often called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. They do not provide the body with more serotonin, they only inhibit the reuptake of serotonin. By blocking the reuptake process, SSRIs allow more serotonin to remain in brain for a longer period of time, enhancing its availability and facilitating improved communication between neurons. The increased serotonin availability is thought to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety by regulating mood, reducing negative thoughts, and promoting a sense of well-being.
Additionally, some studies have suggested that SSRIs can lead to long-term changes in the brain. the prolonged exposure to higher serotonin levels can cause some serotonin receptors to become less responsive over time. This desensitization is believed to play a role in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. SSRIs may also promote and enhance neurogenesis. Studies have shown that these medications can influence the growth of neurons in certain brain regions, particularly in the hippocampus, a region involved in memory and emotional regulation. It’s important to note that these mechanisms are still being researched, and our understanding of how SSRIs bring about long-term changes in the brain is evolving. Individual responses to SSRIs vary, and not all individuals will experience long-term changes in neuroplasticity.
Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), or serotonin noradrenergic receptor antagonists, are another type of antidepressant. SNRIs are a slightly different class of antidepressant medications that work by blocking the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine. Norepinephrine, also known as noradrenaline, plays a role in the body’s stress response and is involved in mood, alertness, and energy levels. By increasing levels of both of these neurotransmitters in the brain, SNRIs can help to relieve depression symptoms on two fronts.
SNRIs are generally considered to be effective, particularly for people who have not had success with SSRIs for treating major depressive disorder. SNRIs can also be effective in treating other mental health conditions such as anxiety and panic disorder. Common SNRI medications include venlafaxine (Effexor), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).
As with SSRIs, SNRIs can have side effects including:
- Weight gain
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite or weight loss
Unlike SSRIs, however, SNRIs are more likely to cause side effects related to norepinephrine, such as:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Restlessness or agitation
It’s important to note that while SSRIs and SNRIs can be effective in treating depression and anxiety, their use should be under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional who can evaluate the specific needs of the patient and monitor their response to the medication.
Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) are a class of antidepressant medications that also work by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. TCAs have a broader impact on multiple neurotransmitters, affecting serotonin, norepinephrine, and other receptors. This broader effect is believed to contribute to their efficacy in treating depression and other conditions. TCAs are commonly used to treat major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders.
Although TCAs can be effective at treating these conditions, they are known to cause side effects. TCAs tend to have a higher likelihood of causing side effects compared to SSRIs or SNRIs because TCAs also affect other receptors in the body, such as histamine receptors, muscarinic receptors, and alpha-adrenergic receptors. Common side effects associated with Tricyclic Antidepressants can include:
- Weight gain
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
More serious side effects include:
- Orthostatic hypostension
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Increased risk of stroke
It is essential to talk to your doctor before beginning a TCA regimen to make sure they are the proper medication for you. Your doctor will take into account your medical history, lifestyle habits, and other medications you may be taking before prescribing you with TCAs.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
MAOIs work differently than most other antidepressant drugs. MAOIs work by inhibiting the activity of the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which is responsible for breaking down certain neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Because MAOIs block the enzyme that helps to break down neurotransmitters in the brain, they increase the availability of these neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to enhanced neurotransmission and mood stabilization. This allows chemicals like serotonin to stay active in the brain longer. MAOIs fall under the category of atypical antidepressants.
There may be some side effects associated with taking MAOIs. Additionally, MAOIs require dietary restrictions to avoid potential interactions with certain foods containing tyramine, as they can lead to a dangerous rise in blood pressure. Tyramine is found in many foods such as cheese, pickles, wine, nuts, beans, and more. This dietary restriction is not necessary with other antidepressant medications.
Because of the dietary restrictions and other potential side effects, MAOIs are not usually prescribed until other antidepressant medications have been tried. It’s important to discuss any potential side effects with your doctor before starting treatment so that you can make sure that you’re taking the best possible course of action for your condition.
Bupropion is an antidepressant medication that works by altering the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. It is most commonly known as Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin is used to treat major depressive disorder and other mood disorders. Bupropion also falls under the category of atypical antidepressants.
This medication is particularly useful for people who experience fatigue or other symptoms of low energy in addition to depression. The side effects associated with bupropion may include headache, dry mouth, stomach pain, nausea, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, and dizziness. More serious side effects may include an increased risk of seizures and stroke. It is essential to talk to your doctor about any potential risks before taking bupropion.
In addition to psychotherapy and lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements and holistic approaches can also help in managing depression. Although these methods are probably not as effective as antidepressant drugs, they may make a difference, and can often be used in conjunction with mental health medications or other treatments. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their ability to improve moods by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. Probiotics have been linked to enhanced cognitive function, better sleep patterns, and improved mental outlook.
Additionally, certain herbs and essential oils (like lavender or chamomile) have been used to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Mind-body practices like yoga, tai chi, and qigong can also help individuals cope with their emotions while increasing relaxation and overall well-being.
To Wrap Things Up
All of the above depression medications, with the exception of natural supplements, must be prescribed by a doctor. A psychiatrist is a type of doctor that specializes in depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. They will be able to help you choose the right depression medication, and can help you keep track of your symptoms and make adjustments if necessary. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and need depression medication, you will need to make an appointment with a psychiatrist.
At Neuro Wellness Spa, we believe in a holistic approach to mental health, including psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, and mind-body practices. If you need depression medication, contact us today to make an appointment with one of our psychiatrists.