facts about antidepressants

What Patients Should Know Before Taking Antidepressants

When it comes to treatments for depression, there is a lot of misinformation out there. Unfortunately, these myths sometimes keep people from getting the help they need or cause unnecessary anxiety when they do decide to get help. For example, many patients feel extremely nervous about starting antidepressants.

While patients should use caution when taking all medication, especially mind-altering substances, depression treatments are often not as terrifying as some myths would have people believe. Patients should understand the truth about what these medicines are, how well they work, and what risks they take when they choose medication.

What Psychiatrists Prescribe for Depression

Patients with depression have several types of medication options. Psychiatrists evaluate patient specifics, such as existing medical conditions, other medications, pregnancy or breastfeeding, and current depression symptoms. With these factors in mind, they recommend medications that have the best chance of success for each patient. These prescriptions come in many classifications, including:

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs):

These medications are often the first type that doctors prescribe for patients with depression. For most patients, SSRIs cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants. Furthermore, they are less risky at high doses.

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs):

Many doctors turn to SNRIs when SSRIs do not work for a patient or may interact with their current medications. They may turn to this class of medication first if the patient also suffers from chronic pain or anxiety.

Atypical Antidepressants:

Medications like Remeron, Trintellix, and Wellbutrin make up the third type of common antidepressants. While these medications do not fit neatly into the SSRI or SNRI categories, they help many patients that struggle with the side effects of those prescriptions. For example, patients who struggle with sexual dysfunction on SSRIs may fare better on Wellbutrin.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs):

Doctors often recommend MAOIs only when other types of depression medications do not work. When patients take these medications, they must stick to strict diets or risk deadly side effects.

Do Depression Medications Work?

A meta-study of 522 trials that tested 21 antidepressants found that all of them worked to varying degrees. However, this doesn’t mean that every pill would work for any person with depression. Which medication works for a specific patient depends on what causes the disorder as well as several unknown factors.

As such, some patients may not find success on the first medication they try, though many will. Patients should return to their doctors for follow-up appointments as prescribed. At these appointments, doctors evaluate whether patients need to switch medications.

Depression treatments do not work immediately. Instead, it takes times for the medication to build up in a patient’s system. As such, patients who start depression medications should not expect to see a significant decline in symptoms for a few weeks, though the time varies based on dosages and specific prescriptions.

Depression medication is most effective when combined with other treatments, especially therapy. Counselors can teach patients healthy coping mechanisms and undo the damage depression does to a person’s self-esteem. Meanwhile, the medication helps the brain heal and allows the patient to feel better.

Risks and Side Effects of Depression Medication

As with all medications, antidepressants have some risk of unpleasant side effects. Patients who take depression medications may experience:

  • Decreased sexual function or desire
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Increased appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide or worsening depression

If the side effects are unbearable, doctors often write prescriptions for other medications. It’s important for patients to remember that doctors do not write any prescriptions without first weighing the potential benefits and risks. If you believe you could benefit from antidepressants, contact a Georgia psychiatrist near you today.

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