What You Should Know About Antidepressants

Clinical depression is a serious illness that affects more than 19 million Americans each year. Although treatment of depression is effective in 80% of cases, only one third of sufferers actually seek medical attention.

Depression is an illness that affects the mind, body, and thoughts. Symptoms of depression include:
� Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed
� Restlessness, irritability
� Insomnia, early morning awakening, or oversleeping
� Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
� Short temper
� Tearfulness for no reason
� Decreased energy
� Persistent sad mood
� Lack of concentration
� Slowed thought, speech, and movement
� Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment including headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

Most sufferers of depression find relief of their symptoms through the use of prescription antidepressants. Medications used to treat depression fall into one of four categories: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Tricyclic Antidepressants, Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), and Atypical Antidepressants.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
The most commonly prescribed group of antidepressants, SSRIs include the commonly recognized medications Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox, Lexapro, and Celexa. SSRIs affect neurotransmitters in the brain, primarily serotonin, which relay messages from one nerve cell to another. Neurotransmitters that are not absorbed by other nerves are reabsorbed by the nerves that release them (the process of reuptake). SSRIs inhibit the reuptake of serotonin which leaves more serotonin to be absorbed by other nerves. Depression is thought to be caused by an imbalance of the naturally occurring chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine. By preventing the reuptake of serotonin, SSRIs are believed to cause a more balanced level of this chemical in the brain.

Tricyclic Antidepressants
The oldest group of antidepressants, Tricyclics were first used to treat clinical depression in the 1950s. This group consists of the medications Elavil, Pamelor, and Ludomil. Named for their molecular structure, tricyclics are believed to inhibit the reuptake of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, and/or dopamine. Although as effective as the other groups of antidepressants, tricyclics are not as commonly prescribed because of their unpleasant side effects including dry mouth, blurred vision, and constipation. Tricyclics are also used to treat bulimia, cocaine withdrawal, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, fibromyalgia, migraines, and bed wetting in chidren.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Effective for some people who do not respond to other antidepressants, MAOIs work by inhibiting the activity of monoamine oxidase thus preventing the breakdown of monoamine transmitters including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. MAOIs can cause serious side effects when combined with ingredients in certain foods, beverages, and medications therefore patients taking MAOIs must stick to a very stringent diet. These side effects include damage to the liver, brain, and cardiovascular system.

Atypical Antidepressants
Named ‘atypical’ because they do not fit into any other category of antidepressants, these medications include Wellbutrin, Effexor, Cymbalta, Remeron, and Serzone. The atypical antidepressants are similar to the tricyclics in that they affect the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin but often cause less side effects. Wellbutrin is less likely to cause sexual dysfunction than other antidepressants, such as SSRIs, and is sometimes prescribed in addition to the SSRIs to counter the sexual dysfunction.

Side Effects
Like all medications, antidepressants have their own side effects. The side affects of all antidepressants are similar but some may be more pronounced with the use of certain antidepressants. Side effects include: dry mouth, constipation, bladder problems, impaired sexual function, blurred vision, dizziness, drowsiness, and increased heart rate. SSRIs may also cause: headache, nausea, nervousness and insomnia, and agitation. The consumption of alcohol while taking prescription antidepressants can magnify the intensity of the side effects.

Most antidepressants take one to four weeks before actually beginning to relieve the symptoms of depression. Because antidepressants affect the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, patients should never just stop taking antidepressants but gradually wean off the medication. Patients who suddenly stop taking their antidepressants may experience severe side effects including intensified feelings of depression and side effects.

If you think you might suffer from clinical depression, take this quiz found at http://psychcentral.com/depquiz.htm and consult your physician.

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