Depression Treatment From The American Medical Association
Q: How is depression treated?
Today, depression can be successfully treated with a variety of
antidepressant medications, various forms of psychotherapy, or some
combination of these or other treatments. Your doctor will choose the
best treatment plan for you or your loved one.
A:Antidepressant drugs are the main medications used to treat depressive mood disorders. There are four types of antidepressants that work in different ways to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain. Nine out of 10 people who have depression can be helped by antidepressant medication. However, which type of medication works best varies from person to person. You may need to try several before your doctor finds the best drug for you. It is important to understand that, though these drugs are powerful in the treatment of depression, they are not addictive. Antidepressants do not provide an unnatural high and are not intended to change your personality. When taken by a healthy, non-depressed person, they have no noticeable effect. Before taking an antidepressant, it is important to tell your doctor about any other medications you may be taking and carefully follow his or her instructions about diet, other drugs and alcohol. The following four categories of antidepressant drugs differ in their side effects, with the newer drugs usually causing fewer problems. Side effects can include dry mouth, drowsiness, constipation, headaches, nausea, nervousness and insomnia. If you have side effects that last for more than a few weeks, tell your doctor. He or she may be able to adjust the dose or prescribe a different drug. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). These drugs alter the balance in the brain of the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) norepinephrine and serotonin. Some TCAs are imipramine, amitriptyline, desipramine and nortriptyline. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These drugs slow the breakdown in the brain of the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) norepinephrine and serotonin, letting them assist brain cells in sending messages for longer periods. When taking MAOIs, you must follow a special diet to avoid problems; follow your doctor's advice on which foods to avoid. A number of medications (including cold pills) also must be avoided to prevent adverse interactions. MAOI drugs include phenelzine and tranylcypromine. Selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs work by enhancing the neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) serotonin. By not interfering with other chemical messengers, SSRIs treat depression without causing the side effects often associated with TCAs and MAOIs. SSRI drugs include citalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine and sertraline.
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