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Antidepressants are prescription medications used to help combat clinical depression. There are a variety of different classes of antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which includes drugs like Prozac®, Zoloft®, and selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors like Cymbalta®.

Antidepressants can help to elevate mood to normal levels, and can also aid with focus, appetite and sleep cycles. Patients who are prescribed antidepressants are instructed to continue treatment, even if they begin to feel happier. Physicians will typically wean users off of these drugs gradually. In the early stages of treatment, antidepressants can cause side effects like sleeplessness or nausea.[1]


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Author Hugh Shiebler


About Antidepressants

Antidepressants treat major depressive disorder and certain other conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). When a patient is prescribed an antidepressant, they are advised to wait at least six to eight weeks to allow the drug to take effect. Antidepressants are typically used as part of a psychotherapy program that may include cognitive-behavioral therapy.[2]

The most commonly-prescribed prescription antidepressant classes are SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Prozac and Zoloft; and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) like Cymbalta® and Effexor®. SSRIs affect the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. SNRIs affect the levels of two neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine.[2]

Other types of antidepressants include: tricyclic antidepressants, such as Elavil®, Tofranil® and Pamelor®; Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), including Nardil® and Parnate®. There are other antidepressants that do not fall into any of these classifications and are considered unique, such as Remeron® and Wellbutrin®

Different classes of antidepressants affect different neurotransmitters in particular ways. For example, MAOIs block monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters. Blocking their breakdown means that neurotransmitters remain active in the brain. Research is ongoing to determine antidepressants' exact mechanisms of action on a person's brain.[3]

Antidepressants Used With Other Medications

Most antidepressants have a delayed onset of action (2–6 weeks) and are usually administered for anywhere from months to years. Antidepressants are often used to treat other conditions, such as anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and chronic pain. Alone or together with anti-convulsants such as Tegretol® or Depakote®, these antidepressants can be used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD and substance abuse by addressing underlying depression. Also, antidepressants have been used sometimes to treat snoring and migraines.

Recently, the FDA approved the use of certain anti-psychotics, such as Seroquel® and Abilify®, to help in the treatment of depression, either alone or together with an antidepressant. The use of anti-psychotic medications as adjuncts to antidepressants is somewhat controversial. Anti-psychotics are powerful drugs that were originally designed for more serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax®, Valium® and Clonopin® are also commonly used to manage depression, although benzodiazepines cause physical dependence.[4]

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About Depression

Depression occurs when someone experiences sadness for an extended period of time. Typically, these feelings interfere with everyday living and may hinder relationships. Depression is a treatable condition, and most patients can benefit from therapy. There are a a variety of forms of depression, including:

  • Major depression: This is a debilitating form of depression that causes lack of enjoyment of life and may cause issues with sleep and eating habits. This can be a recurring illness for sufferers.
  • Minor depression: Here symptoms are less severe than with major depression but are similar and continue for at least 14 days. Minor depression can develop into major depression.
  • Bipolar disorder: also referred to as manic depressive disorder, bipolar disorder results in severe mood swings.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): This type of depression occurs during the wintertime when sunlight is more scarce.
  • Postpartum depression: This occurs after a woman gives birth. About 10 to 15% of women develop postpartum depression.[5]




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Pages in category "Antidepressants"

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