The Truth About Antidepressant — Benefits, side effects and more

There is some stigma associated with taking antidepressant. Some researchers believe that these medications may cause you more harm than good in the long run. However, there is evidence that antidepressants can treat moderate to severe depression more effectively than placebo.

So, if you are considering whether you should take anti-depression medicine or not, you should first be familiar with how they work, the benefits they provide and the side effects they can cause.

What is depression?

It is normal to feel dejected sometimes. However, people who suffer from depression experience intense displeasure, severe anxiousness or boredom along with physical pain, lack of energy, sleepiness, and have suicidal tendencies.

Clinical depression is caused due to an imbalance in important neurotransmitters(serotonin and noradrenaline) in your brain. This neurotransmitters control your emotion and mood

How do antidepressants work

Antidepressants work by increasing happy chemicals in your brain like serotonin or noradrenaline. When the levels of these chemical return to a normal state, it can elevate the mood of the patient and even relieve some physical pain symptoms.

Benefits of taking antidepressant medication

Antidepressant medication is mainly prescribed in order to treat clinical depression. However, they can also treat physical pain caused due to chronic depression. Even if you don’t suffer from depression symptoms your doctor may prescribe it in order to treat post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD) or generalized anxiety disorder.

You need to take these medications continuously for 1 or 2 weeks without skipping a dose in order to experience any benefit. 

Types of antidepressants –

There are generally 5 types of antidepressants –

Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors(SNRIs)

These medications are designed to be more effective than other types of antidepressant medicines like SSRIs. However, there is little evidence for their effectiveness in treating depression.

Eg. – Venlafaxine(Effexor) and duloxetine(Yentreve and Cymbalta).

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors(SSRIs)

These are the most popular type of medication in this category as they cause fewer side effects. There is also less chance for an overdose.

Eg – Fluoxetine(Prozac), sertraline(Lustral) and citalopram(Cipramil).

Tricyclic antidepressants(TCAs)

These type of medication have a higher chance for overdose and may cause more serious side effects than SNRIs and SSRIs. Thus, they are usually not prescribed anymore. However, people who fail to respond to other types of antidepressants may benefit from TCAs.

Eg. – Nortriptyline(Allegron), amitriptyline(Tryptizol),  imipramine(Tofranil), clomipramine(Anafranil) and lofepramine(Gamanil)

Noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants(NASSAs)

These are prescribed to people who cannot take SSRIs. They usually cause more drowsiness but cause less sexual problems.

Eg. – Mirtazapine(Zispin).

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors(MAOIs)

These are rarely prescribed nowadays as they can cause some serious side effects. Thus, they are only prescribed by specialists.

Eg – Phenelzine, tranylcypromine, and isocarboxazid.

Side effects of antidepressants –

Antidepressants can cause a lot of side effects including drowsiness, fatigue, weight gain, loss of sexual energy or libido, dry mouth and constipation.

SSRIs generally cause sex-related side effects including decreased ability to have an orgasm. Doctors who prescribe SSRIs may also prescribe a medication for erectile dysfunction.

Long term use of these medications have been linked to hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

Drugs like mirtazapine(Remeron) are usually prescribed to people who have trouble gaining weight or suffer from insomnia so that the side effects can actually help the patients.