Not everyone who is diagnosed with depression needs to take medication. If you are wondering whether medication is the right choice for you, it is best to consult your medical professional. If, on the other hand, you’re moderately depressed, or severely depressed, then chances are, some medicine would probably help you quite a bit. Still, you may be a bit curious about some of those medications (commonly called “antidepressants”) and you may be wondering several things, like what the side effects are, and how long you’ll have to be on a medication. Of course, the answers to those questions vary somewhat from medicine to medicine, and obviously from patient to patient, but there are some similarities among all of them. Before we discuss those similarities, though, let’s first take a look at some of the different categories into which depression medicines can be grouped.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
This group of medicines, known for short as ”SSRI’s,” includes such popular drugs as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. These drugs are effective because many of the symptoms of depression are caused by a lack of adequate serotonin in the brain. Therefore, the fact that these drugs increase the amount of serotonin available in the brain means that they in turn will reduce the symptoms of depression. What’s more, these drugs generally have fewer side effects than their older counterparts. They do have some side effects, though, and the more common of these include irritability, trouble sleeping, headache, and appetite changes. Generally, the benefits of these medicines far outweigh the risks of these types of side effects. Not only that, the side effects usually go away after you’ve taken the medicine for a while.
Tricyclic And Tetracyclic Antidepressants
This category of antidepressant medications is often prescribed when other antidepressants are unsuccessful in eliminating the symptoms of depression. This is because they have a greater number of side effects, and therefore the benefits of these medicines need to outweigh those risks. The additional side effects to be aware of when it comes to this particular type of antidepressants include constipation, weight gain, drowsiness, headaches, dry mouth and dizziness.
Because of the necessary consideration of risk versus reward when it comes to this particular category of medications, they are typically only prescribed in severe cases, and usually never to older adults or people with low blood pressure or heart problems.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
These drugs are seldom if ever given to children or teenagers, and they are virtually never the first drug doctors will try in the treatment of depression, primarily because the side effects of MAOIs can be quite severe. Some of these side effects include high blood pressure, muscle twitching during sleep, lightheadedness, weight gain, and loss of sexual desire. Also, there are certain foods you should avoid if you’re taking this type of medicine, and these include some cheeses, some beans, and pickled foods. The reason you should avoid these types of food when taking MAOIs is that they make the blood pressure side effect even worse. For all their risks, MAOIs are quite effective in reducing the symptoms of depression, particularly in cases where unusual symptoms exist, such as weight gain and oversleeping. Some patients who cannot tolerate the side effects of other depression medications actually find themselves able to function better on these. If someone in your family has been successfully treated with this type of drug, then chances are it will be effective in your case as well.
How Long You’ll Need to Take Medication
When it comes to how long you need to take your depression medications, there are some good rules of thumb to follow both before and after you begin to feel better. First, don’t expect to feel better the day you start taking the medicine. It usually takes about one to three weeks for medication to work itself into your body to such an extent that you begin to notice any improvement. Still, if you have noticed no improvement at all after three weeks on your antidepressant, then you definitely should alert your doctor.
Assuming, however, that you have noticed some improvement after three weeks, don’t expect that to be all the improvement you notice, either. Usually, you notice even more improvement within six to eight weeks. Even when all of your symptoms are gone, it’s normal procedure to continue taking your medication for six months after that. If you’ve been depressed before, your doctor may want you to continue taking your medication even longer. Just don’t quit your medicine without talking to your doctor. He or she will probably want to taper you off of the medication gradually. The key thing to remember is that being depressed is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is possible to have a symptom-free life with the proper treatment.