Getting to grips with the myriad of anti-depressants on offer can be confusing. In this article we discuss the various types of anti-depressant and treatments available.
When your doctor first assigns a course of treatment there can be a bit of confusion and even stigma clouding your mind. Having a basic understanding of how each different medication works can help you to see what is changing and how.
SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)
The most popular of all types of anti-depressants the SSRI range includes Prozac (Fluoxetine), Citalopram (Celaxa) and Zoloft (Sertraline). These drugs work by limiting the amount of serotonin absorbed by the presynaptic cells. Serotonin is responsible for mood-balance and increasing the levels in your body is the primary way these drugs target depression and anxiety.
They are primarily prescribed for treating severe depression, chronic depression and anxiety disorders such as a general anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety. Treatment needs to be monitored as increased levels of serotonin in the body can lead to serotonin sydnrome.
Serotonin itself is believed to control the following:
- Mood balance
- Appetite and digestion
- Sexual desire & function
SNRIs (Atypical Antidepressants)
Atypical anti-depressants targets other neuro-transmitters either alone or in addition to serotonin. For example Wellbutrin prevents dopamine and norepinephrine from being reabsorbed. Alternatively Trazadone (Desyrel), Venlafaxine (Effexor) & Mirtazipine (Remeron) target norepinephrine and serotonin which gives them the SNRI classification (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors).
Weight gain is a common side effect with this band of drugs and if its a problem you should consult your doctor for ways to manage it. Sexual dysfunction is another common side effect although Wellbutrin is reportedly better at keeping this problem at bay.
An older and less used of the medication options available, Tricyclic drugs work by preventing the reuptake of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. Because of their broad-spectrum approach they often have the largest list of side-effects which affect a greater number of users.
A common side-effect is drowsiness/sleepiness.
MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors)
The oldest of the drug options these have some of the more dangerous side effects and reactions and so are rarely given as a first choice in the treatment of depression or anxiety. A severe interaction with foods containing Tyramine can lead to dangerous blood pressure levels and taking them in too close proximity to SSRI medications can lead to serotonin syndrome (a gap of 5-7 weeks is recommended)
Common side effects include dizziness, sleepiness, insomnia and sexual dysfunction. Weight gain is also common and should be discussed with your GP if you notice significant changes in your weight.
St John’s Wort has long been used to treat cases of mild depression, but it should be noted that in can effect the efficacy of other drugs such as the ones listed above and shouldnt be used in conjunction with them unless you check with a doctor before. It is also an anti-viral, anti-inflammatory that can improve thyroid function too.
Foods containing fatty-acids like Omega 3 can also be useful, a shortcut version is Cod liver oil which I have used with some noticeable effect in the past.
For a full guide to natural remedies check out the articles under Depression on this site.