Antidepressants, as their name suggests, are a certain type of drug that is used to combat depression in people. The amount of people in the United States who have taken, or are currently taking, some form of antidepressant is mind boggling, and should cause us to take pause. In order to decide whether you should take anitdepressants, we must first define what they are, how they are used. Next week, we will look at the two different problems that may arise for those in recovery. Because antidepressants work a little differently for everyone, you may be wondering if they’ll work for you. Let’s find out.
What Are Antidepressants?
Antidepressants are a popular treatment choice for depression. Although antidepressants may not cure depression, they can reduce symptoms. There are several types of antidepressants, however, the class that is used the most by far are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s for short.
It is important to know that scientists aren’t exactly sure how, or really if, SSRI’s work for those with depression. It’s thought that SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. The nerve cells in our brain use various chemicals to pass on signals. Even though not all details are known, experts believe that depression is caused by an imbalance of certain chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) like serotonin, which means that signals can’t be passed along the nerves properly. Antidepressants aim to increase the availability of these chemicals. The various drugs do that in different ways.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a messenger chemical that carries signals between nerve cells in the brain). It’s thought to have a good influence on mood, emotion and sleep.
After carrying a message, serotonin is usually reabsorbed by the nerve cells (known as “reuptake”). SSRIs work by blocking (“inhibiting”) reuptake, meaning more serotonin is available to pass further messages between nearby nerve cells.
It would be too simplistic to say that depression and related mental health conditions are caused by low serotonin levels, but a rise in serotonin levels can improve symptoms and make people more responsive to other types of treatment, such as CBT.
How Are Antidepressants Used?
Antidepressants are used to help eliminate depressive feelings in people. Especially for those in early recovery, depressive emotions can run wild causing some to struggle.
The main use for antidepressants is treating clinical depression in adults. They’re also used for other mental health conditions and treatment of long-term pain.
In most cases, adults with moderate to severe depression are given antidepressants as a first form of treatment. They’re often prescribed along with a talking therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that uses a problem-solving approach to help improve thought, mood and behavior.
Antidepressants are not always recommended for treating mild depression because research has found limited effectiveness.
However, antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for a few months for mild depression to see if you experience any improvement in your symptoms. If you do not see any benefits in this time, the medicine will be slowly withdrawn.
Depression and Suicide
It should always be remembered that depression is a real phenomenon among people. People all over the world have feelings of hopelessness ranging from mild to chronic mental illness. If you, or someone you know is struggling with depression, please take their concerns seriously and seek professional help. Next week we will discuss how to educate yourself on how antidepressants are used by doctors and those in addiction treatment. Once you educate yourself, you can then work with your medical professional to help you gain the results you desire.
People with depression are at risk for trying to commit suicide. Warning signs may include talking about suicide or dying, threatening to hurt others, becoming irritable or taking excessive risks, giving away personal belongings, or otherwise settling personal affairs. Any warning signs for suicide should be taken very seriously and immediate help should be sought, either through the closest emergency room or in discussion with a suicide hotline. Two suicide hotlines include 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) and 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).