Antidepressants are a group of prescription medicines that treat moderate to severe depression, and may also be used to treat other mental health ailments such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and more. Antidepressants work by increasing certain chemicals in one’s brain that are directly linked to a person’s mood, emotion, and perception of pleasure. Antidepressants are divided into five different types and based on which chemicals in the brain they affect, are categorized accordingly. The different types include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs work by slowing the re-absorption of and altering the brain’s chemical balance of serotonin. Serotonin is the chemical in one’s body that is directly related to one’s moods. Common examples of SSRIs include:
- Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs work to elevate one’s mood by interacting with both the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in one’s brain. They can be prescribed to treat anxiety, depression, and some chronic pain conditions. Common examples of SNRIs:
- Cymbalta (duloxetine)
- Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): TCAs affect three brain chemicals: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. They are prescribed less frequently as they are an older class of antidepressants that can cause more side effects than other options. Some examples of TCAs include:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs block the actions of monoamine oxidase enzymes (which are responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) in the brain. These drugs were the first type of antidepressants developed and are typically used as a last resort.
- Atypical antidepressants: these do not fit into the standard antidepressant classes (e.g., SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs, tricyclic antidepressants, etc.). A common example is trazodone that is categorized according to its mechanism of action, which is as a serotonin receptor (5HT2a) antagonist and reuptake inhibitor, or SARI. These drugs work by moderating levels of serotonin in the brain and increasing its availability in the central nervous system (CNS).
As is true with any medical intervention, there are certain risks and possible unwanted side effects. The specific risks will vary from person to person, as they will depend on several contributing factors (e.g., the individual’s health history, the presence of any additional mental health ailments, substance abuse issues, genetics, etc.). Still, when prescribed appropriately and taken exactly as directed, antidepressant medications can be incredibly effective in reducing unwanted symptoms and improve daily functioning of individuals with psychiatric disorders.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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