February 25, 2022

Mental health awareness is on the rise globally. With the pandemic and the stress of daily life, a bad day or two can escalate into clinical depression.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an estimated 16 million American adults – nearly 7% of the US population – suffered from one or more depressive episodes in the previous year. Also, depression in youth has increased in the US as well. Depression is non-discriminatory. It can affect anyone, at any time, with any background.

Symptoms of depression can include sleep and appetite changes, loss of energy or fatigue, inability to concentrate, lack of interest, hopelessness, low self-esteem, changes in movement (slowing down), physical pain, and suicidal thoughts.

Once diagnosed by a healthcare provider, there are several treatments for people suffering from depression. In addition to other non-drug therapies, medications can be a part of that regimen. Here are several different types of drugs with different mechanisms of action in the body used to treat depression.

  • Antidepressants – These work on changing the levels of different chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin or norepinephrine.
  • Mood stabilizers – These drugs are used for treating part of bipolar disorder, which is another type of mental disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
  • Antipsychotics – As a class of drugs, antipsychotics have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in some instances for depression and/or bipolar disorder.
  • Others – Other classes of drugs may be used for the treatment of depression beyond the three categories above.

The challenge associated with many of these drugs and classes of drugs is that they take time to “work” in the body. Sometimes, people may even feel worse before they feel better with antidepressant medications. It can take 4-6 weeks to optimize the amount of medication for a person. Sometimes the healthcare provider may need to switch the antidepressant or combine therapies for people. Healthcare providers have a protocol by which to safely switch antidepressants for people.

What to Expect from Your Medications is a good resource to learn more about what can happen if you’re placed on antidepressant medication. Be sure to be open with your provider when first starting antidepressants. It may take some time for the therapies to be optimized uniquely in every person.

Always talk to your healthcare provider about your mental health and your treatment regimen.

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