Treatment Options - Antidepressants

Antidepressants are the most often used treatment for depression. They help balance neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that send messages between brain cells. There are many different types of antidepressants available on the market.  

Your symptoms will determine what antidepressants may be best for your situation. Sometimes, combining different antidepressants may work better than just one medicine. 

When choosing an antidepressant that's likely to work well for you, your healthcare provider may consider a variety of factors.

  • Your symptoms
  • Possible side effects of the drug
  • Whether the drug worked for a close relative in the past
  • Safety of using the medication with other medicines you are taking
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding status
  • Other health conditions

While antidepressant medications may not be able to fully cure depression, they can be effective in controlling your symptoms. 

How do antidepressants work?

Antidepressants are designed to impact brain chemistry by affecting the levels of chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals (called neurotransmitters) are key to the transmission of signals between brain cells (called neurons). 

If you would like to learn more about how neurotransmitters, neurons, and synapses work, visit our Medications for Depression page. 

Each type of antidepressant affects the behavior of neurotransmitters differently. 

Reuptake Inhibitors

Adjacent brain cells (neurons) send signals to each other by releasing messenger chemicals (neurotransmitters) into the tiny space between the two cells. For a signal to end, the messenger chemicals must be removed from that space. 

One way the messenger chemicals are removed is by brain cells taking them back inside the cell. This process is called Reuptake. Antidepressants can slow Reuptake so that chemical messengers stay between brain cells longer and at higher levels. 

Experts believe that keeping certain neurotransmitter levels high can improve communication between the neurons and improve the brain’s circuits, regulating your mood.

Different types of reuptake inhibitors target different types of neurotransmitters and are named accordingly. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants usually fall into one of three types:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)

There are also other types of antidepressants that are less commonly prescribed. Based on your needs, your Options MD psychiatrist can help determine which type of antidepressant may be the right one for you. 

How effective are antidepressant medications?

Antidepressant medication has been the most popular choice of treatment for depression, and it has helped many millions of people. However, not everyone reacts to antidepressants in the same way. While antidepressants can be helpful in depression, their effectiveness can vary from one patient to another. 

Oftentimes, one type of antidepressant medication may not work for you, and your doctor may prescribe a different one. If you are experiencing treatment-resistant depression, your doctor may also consider a combination of medications for you.

How long do antidepressants take to work?

Some patients report feeling an improvement in depression within two weeks after starting an antidepressant. For most people, it takes about six to eight weeks after starting an antidepressant (or after changing the dose) to feel the full benefits. For some antidepressants, benefits may continue to increase for up to 3 months. Patience is an essential part of treatment when using antidepressants.

You might wonder, what causes this delay? Experts believe that your brain’s response to the antidepressant medication is responsible for improving depression. Your brain’s response takes time, which creates the delay between starting an antidepressant and seeing the full effects. 

If you don't see any change after you start taking an antidepressant, this may be why. If you are concerned, please contact your doctor for advice. You may need to wait some more time, or your doctor may change the dosage for you.

What side effects do antidepressant medications have?

It is important to take any antidepressant medication according to your doctor’s instructions. You should not make any changes to your dosage or stop taking the medication before talking to your doctor.

Antidepressant medications can cause side effects that sometimes improve with time. Initial side effects can include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Loose bowel movements
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion

Many of these side effects may subside once your body adjusts to the medication. 

Some people may have an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants. It is vital to keep an eye on when such thoughts manifest and inform your doctor. 

If your medicine causes bothersome side effects, call your healthcare provider before making any changes.

View possible side effects for different antidepressant medications.

Antidepressant Medication Treatment for Depression

Finding the proper treatment when you have treatment-resistant depression can be challenging. Antidepressant medication is considered the first line of defense in treating depression symptoms. However, if you have treatment-resistant depression, you may need a more nuanced approach.

At Options MD, antidepressants are one of 200 treatment options our expert team will consider when putting together a custom plan for your treatment-resistant depression. 

Do you have questions?

Options MD is here to help. Text us to start treatment now. Join our Facebook community to connect with other individuals with treatment-resistant depression. 

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