Depression Medications Explained

Depression is more than a gloomy and terrifying disorder; it can be lethal. Therefore, anyone with moderate to severe depression requires vivid treatment immediately. There are many different depression medications. These same antidepressants can also help treat panic disorder, other anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and attention deficit disorder.

Depression has been linked to a shortage of any one of four different neurotransmitters: serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine or epinephrine. Depression medications are designed to correct neurotransmitter shortages by increasing the body's supply of one or more of these important brain chemicals.

There are three main classes of depression medications:

-Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) increase brain norepinephrine levels. From the 1960s through the 1980s, TCAs were the first line treatment for major depression in the US – Today however, TCAs are generally used as the second or third line therapies. Side effects from this depression medication include dry mouth, sleepiness, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (scarring or thickening of deep lung tissue), weight gain, blurred vision, constipation, fast or irregular heartbeat, bladder weakness, tremors, and dizziness. Brand name drugs in this class are Tofranil, Desipramine, Doxepin, and Elavil.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAO) is an enzyme that breaks down three important neurotransmitters. Norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. MAOIs have been significantly replaced by SSRIs, although many patients with major depression who do not respond to TCAs improve with MAOIs. Depressed patients with specific symptoms like sleeping too much, over-eating for long periods of time, rejection sensitivity, and panic attacks, may get the best results with MAOIs. MAOIs are also effective treatments for panic disorder and bipolar depression. Side effects from this depression medication includes tremors, edema, dizziness, constipation, sleepiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, increased blood pressure, and fast or irregular heartbeat. Brand name drugs in this class are, Parnate, Nardil, and Marphan.

– Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the newest of the three main classes of depression medications. They prevent the reabsorption of serotonin from the synapse where neighboring brain cells communicate. SSRIs are the current depression medication of choice because of their limited side effects, although they may cause insomnia, agitation, headache, nausea, and diarrhea. Brand name drugs in this class are, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Lexapro.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that taking a pill is the easy way out. While a medication may take away symptoms of a disease – it does not cure the problem, and often creates a completely new array of side effects. It is important to discover the root of the problem and treat it in a way that can bring lasting relief. In attacking depression, lifestyle measures should be your first line of defense. Herbs or depression medications should be a last line of defense.