The use of antidepressants has jumped nearly 65% from 1999-2014 and today about 10% of the population takes them.
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and antidepressants are one way to control and manage your symptoms so you can begin feeling more like yourself.
Let’s have a look at antidepressants, what they are, and if they can help you.
What are Antidepressants?
Antidepressants are drugs that balance chemicals in the brain that affect a person’s behavior and mood.
They are mostly used for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. When the chemicals in your brain are not working properly, mental illness can occur.
Neurotransmitters are messengers in our bodies that communicate between the brain and our nervous system.
Neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine all ensure messages are sent and received. Antidepressants work to increase these neurotransmitters to help ease the symptoms of mental illness.
There are four main types of antidepressants: serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Tricyclic (TCAS), and Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
SNRIs are used to treat depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
SNRIs are responsible for increasing norepinephrine and serotonin, two key components in maintaining moods. SSRIs only inhibit serotonin and are used for treating depression.
Tricyclic antidepressants work to produce more norepinephrine and serotonin to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) were first developed in the 1950s to treat a wider variety of mental illnesses such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkin’s disease, and bipolar disorder.
MAOIs are still prescribed today if other medications are not working.
How are Antidepressants Taken?
Antidepressants are taken orally by a tablet.
When you see a doctor about your symptoms, they will prescribe the medication and you can have it filled at a pharmacy. It can take time to find the right antidepressant or dosage to ease your symptoms.
It’s common to try several different types of antidepressants or change your prescription.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend taking the medication anywhere from 1-3 times daily.
Who Takes Antidepressants?
Anyone who suffers from a mental illness that interferes with their ability to live their life is a candidate for antidepressants.
Children as young as six years old could be prescribed antidepressants.
But psychiatrists warn that there might be serious side effects. A child should be thoroughly evaluated by a psychiatrist before incorporating antidepressants.
Teenagers and adults can take antidepressants. It is wise to proceed with caution when considering it for your teen.
Mental illness does not discriminate.
Any persons from any culture can be taking antidepressants. In fact, the use of antidepressants is on the rise in several countries all over the world. Here in the United States, most people who take antidepressants are ages 12 and up.
Some people are concerned they will have to take antidepressants forever. This is rarely the case, as each persons’ method of treatment can vary.
A Brief History of Antidepressants
In the 1950s, scientists were working on a cure for schizophrenia. It was here that antidepressants were discovered. Although patients with schizophrenia did not respond well to the drug, patients with depression found relief.
In 1955 the drug was received positively, and patients felt as if they’d regained their lives.
Drug competitors were taking notice and began developing and marketing their own antidepressants.
These antidepressants were not perfect. They caused serious side effects like overdosing. Eventually, a better pill, Prozac, was developed in 1987. Zoloft followed suit a few years later, and then Paxil in 1992.
With new research, these companies focused on creating an antidepressant that targeted serotonin. These newer drugs produced better results without more side effects.
Antidepressant Effects on the Body
The main purpose of an antidepressant is to balance the chemicals in the brain to stabilize moods and behavior. They work with neurotransmitters to produce more chemicals in the brain that can result in a happier or more calming state of mind.
Though antidepressants work well for many people, they’re not without side effects. Each drug carries its own list of side effects and will affect each patient differently.
Patients rarely have to take antidepressants continually.
Usually, they will take them for an extended period of time and reevaluate with their therapist or doctor. Still, the long-term effect of taking medication for any length of time can still produce side effects.
Here are the long-term effects of antidepressants:
- growing addicted to the substance
- lack of sexual interest or sexual problems
- suicidal thoughts or feelings
- weight gain
- continued depression
- feeling no feelings at all
- withdrawal symptoms after stopping the medication
This is not an exhaustive list. Every person’s body and brain is different and each will respond to medication in a unique way.
Short-Term Side Effects
It’s normal to experience side effects shortly after beginning a medication. This is also the case with antidepressants. Patients usually feel the side effects about 2 weeks after beginning medication.
Side effects will vary according to the type of antidepressant you’re taking. Here are some common side effects associated with each antidepressant.
Side effects of SSRIs and SNRIs:
- dry mouth
- increase anxiety
- gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea or constipation
- thoughts of suicide
Side effects when taking TCAs include those above as well as:
- weight loss
- eye pressure
MAOIs have their own set of side effects, which include the above mentioned and the following:
- feeling light-headed or fainting
- sexual difficulties
- high blood pressure
- vision problems
- muscle aches
This side effects can vary from person to person.
Using Antidepressants With Other Drugs
Combining antidepressants with other medications or other antidepressants is up to the discretion of your doctor. Be sure to inform your doctor of the medications you are currently taking.
MAOIs should not be combined with SSRIs and they interact negatively.
Antidepressants: An Answer for Depression
The complexity of the brain deserves recognition.
If you suffer from mental illness, be encouraged that antidepressants have shown to reduce symptoms typically after tweaking medication. Have patience and you can regain feeling like yourself soon.
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