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Do I Need Medication for My Depression?

The Pros and Cons of Antidepressant Medications

Antidepressants can be a life-changing tool for people suffering from depression, but are they the right tool for you? Read on to learn if medication is a good option for treating your depression.

What Options Are Available?

Modern antidepressant medications are designed to affect the neurochemistry in the brain. Although they cannot cure depression, these medications can reduce symptoms in some people. Specific brain chemicals are associated with depression, particularly norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. Most antidepressants work by targeting one or more of these neurotransmitters.

There are a variety of different kinds of antidepressant medications available today, including:

  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), such as Lexapro, (escitalopram), Celexa (citalopram), Zoloft (sertraline), Pexeva, Paxil (paroxetine) and Prozac (fluoxetine)

  • SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), such as Fetzima (levomilnacipran), Khedezla, Pristiq (desvenlafaxine), Effexor XR (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine)

Sometimes doctors will also prescribe atypical antidepressants that don't fit quite as neatly into typical antidepressant categories. These include bupropion (Forfivo XL, Aplenzin, Wellbutrin), Viibryd (vilazodone), Trintellix (vortioxetine), Remeron (mirtazapine) and trazodone.

When patients don't respond to common antidepressants, doctors may turn to newer, less-proven tricyclic antidepressants or MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors); however, this is typically only done as a last resort, since these medications can have dangerous or even deadly interactions with common foods such as cheeses, pickles and wines.

The Pros and Cons

Like virtually every other type of medication, antidepressants can have unwanted side effects. Some of the most common include:

  • Agitation
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth

Although most antidepressants are generally considered to be safe, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that every antidepressant carry black box warnings, because they have been known to increase thoughts of suicide in certain people. They can also alter behavior and make people more prone to risk-taking. For these reasons, it's important to report any abnormal symptoms, behaviors or thought patterns to your doctor or therapist.

What Should I Do?

For many people, antidepressant medications can be just the thing they need to make their depression more manageable. For others, the drugs either don't produce the desired effects or come with unbearable side-effects. This is one reason why so many people turn to cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) as a natural solution for their depression. In fact, research suggests that CBT is just as effective as medication when it comes to treating depression. It can also provide longer-lasting results. That said, some people find that a combination of antidepressant medications and CBT is the best way to treat their depression symptoms. You may have to experiment with available options to find out what works best for you.

Getting Help

However you choose to address your depression, it's important to reach out for help. Many people resist seeking treatment for their depression symptoms because they worry about the social stigmas surrounding mental health issues and antidepressant medications. It's important to remember that depression is a very common issue that affects millions of Americans just like you.

If you aren't sure how to best approach your depression, consider meeting with a qualified therapist who can help you get to the root of your issues, empower you with effective coping skills and make recommendations about whether pharmaceutical treatments might be able to help you overcome your depression and live your best life.

The caring therapists at Foundations Counseling can help you and your family overcome life's greatest challenges. Contact us today!