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Antidepressants, as the name suggests these are the medicines used to alleviate depression. They are prescription drugs, existing in different forms and your doctor would advice the one that would suit your condition.


Different types of antidepressants and their mode of action

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): You will be under the supervision of a psychiatrist, when you take MAOIs. They block the action of the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which therefore cannot breakdown the key neurotransmitters of the brain viz. norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.

Examples: Isocarboxazid, Phenelzine, Tranylcypromine, Selegiline

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs):
They are one of the most widely used antidepressants. They increase the amount of serotonin in the brain by blocking their re-absorption. Mental health and mood is elevated as serotonin levels are balanced.

Examples: Citalopram, Escitalopram, Fluoxetine, Fluvoxam, etc.

Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs):
They help maintaining balance between norepinephrine and serotonin by blocking their re-absorption in the brain. They are also known as dual action antidepressants.

Examples: Venlafaxine, Desvenlafaxine Duloxetine

Tricylic antidepressants:
The name is derived from their chemical structure. They block the action of acetylcholine and increase levels of serotonin and nor epinephrine. Apart from reducing depression, they also induce sedation. They are usually not prescribed to older people suffering from heart problems and low BP.

Examples: Amitriptyline, Doxepin, Clomipramine, Trimipramine


Uses of antidepressants?

Antidepressants are primarily used for depression, agitation and anxiety issues. However, the composition of medicines is also effective against a wider range of disorders that arise from imbalance in the neurotransmitters of the brain.

They are: 

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Serious phobias like social withdrawal, isolation, etc.
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Peripheral neuropathic pain
Antidepressants also find application in cognitive behavioural therapy.


What is the dose of antidepressants?

The dosage and duration definitely varies from one individual to other and depends on the type and severity of the syndrome being treated. Your doctor will usually begin with a low dose. It can be continued for 6 months to a year or more.


What are the side effects of antidepressants?

The side effects show up initially when your body tries to adjust with the medicine. Eventually they disappear. The impact on health varies as per the type you are consuming.

Some common side effects of antidepressants are: 

  • Loss of appetite, weight gain
  • Lack of sleep or too much drowsiness
  • Change in heart rhythm


What to consider before taking antidepressants?

Antidepressants are tricky medicines. Under many conditions they are not prescribed and you have to follow the instructions given by your doctor.

Some cautions are: 

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning for a baby or are breastfeeding.
  • Taking illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine, etc.
  • Let your doctor know if you are taking any other medicine like pain killers, BP medicines, herbal supplements, etc.
  • Ask your doctor how to manage a missed dose or overdose.
  • Ask your doctor about what foods to avoid while taking the medicines.


How effective are antidepressants?

The medicines are capable of curing severe form of depression, anxiety and related health issues. They are effective only when taken properly with all caution and improvement is noticed after 2-4 weeks. Anti depressants are not used for treating mild depression and overdose can also be fatal.

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: March 14, 2014