What are Antidepressants? Uses, Types, Side Effects & More 2022

‍Antidepressants are a type of drug that is used to help people who are experiencing depression. They do not directly treat the symptoms but address the underlying cause, which is almost always a chemical imbalance in the brain. Antidepressants have been proven to be effective in helping people get over their depression and move on with their lives. These drugs work by increasing certain chemicals in the brain called serotonin and norepinephrine.

These two chemicals are responsible for regulating our moods and lowering stress reactions. Antidepressants can also help people manage their depression by making them less anxious about small stresses, more able to deal with stressors, and reduce self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse and eating disorders.

What is the Difference Between Antidepressants and Depression Medication?

Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, they actually have very different meanings. Medication for depression is generally something that is used for the short-term when somebody is experiencing the symptoms of depression and does not have an underlying cause.

Medications for depression are often anti-anxiety meds or mood stabilizers to help people get through their depressive episodes and feel better. Antidepressants are used when someone is experiencing long-term depression, and there is an underlying cause/reason that they are depressed.

Common Antidepressants

  • SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors): SSRIs are the most common type of antidepressant used when someone has depression caused by low serotonin levels. SSRIs can take a while to take effect, with some people experiencing positive effects after a couple of weeks and others taking up to a few months. Antidepressants in this class include: 
  • SNRIs (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors): SNRIs are a type of antidepressant used for depression caused by low serotonin and norepinephrine levels. SNRIs are similar to SSRIs in that they can take a few weeks to start having an effect. 
  • Tetracyclines: Tetracyclines are antibiotics that are also used as antidepressants. 
  • MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors): MAOIs are antidepressants that are very rarely prescribed because of the dangerous side effects that come with taking them. 
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants are another class of antidepressants that are rarely prescribed. They are very similar to MAOIs in that they are very dangerous to take and are only used in extreme situations.

How do Antidepressants Work?

When someone has depression, it is because their brain is not producing enough serotonin or norepinephrine, which are chemicals that regulate mood and make us feel happy. Antidepressants block a certain enzyme in the brain that prevents serotonin and norepinephrine from being produced and then increase their production.

These drugs work by increasing serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Increasing these levels has been proven to improve mood and decrease depressive symptoms and the risk of relapse. This chemical change can take a couple of weeks to have a full effect, which is one of the reasons why many people do not feel better after taking antidepressants.

Side Effects of Antidepressants

  • Nausea 
  • Headaches 
  • Constipation 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Sleep problems 
  • Sexual dysfunction 
  • Weight gain or loss 
  • Irregular heartbeat 
  • Worsened anxiety 
  • Worsened depression 
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions 
  • Interactions with other medications 
  • Withdrawal if you stop taking the medication Withdrawal when you switch from one medication to another 
  • Risk of increased side effects with long-term use

Antidepressants and Weight Gain

To Treat Body Dysmorphia/Distorted Body Image: Some people who take antidepressants experience a change in their body dysmorphia or the way that they perceive their bodies. People with body dysmorphia often have an unrealistic and unhealthy perception of the way that they look, which can lead to dangerous consequences such as an eating disorder or self-harm. Medications that treat depression can sometimes be used to treat body dysmorphia because they affect serotonin levels in the brain

To Manage Other Side Effects: Some people who experience weight gain while taking antidepressants may do so because they are using them to manage other side effects of the medication. For example, a person who is using antidepressants to treat their anxiety may also experience a decrease in their desire to eat. Taking antidepressants to treat other disorders is perfectly safe, but it can sometimes lead to unintended weight gain.

Antidepressants and Pregnancy

Some Antidepressants are Safe During Pregnancy: It is always recommended to speak with a doctor about the best course of action regarding medications and pregnancy, but some antidepressants are safe during this time. 

Others Should be Discontinued: Some antidepressants are considered to be very safe for use during pregnancy, but others should be discontinued as soon as possible. It is important to speak with a doctor about the best course of action for a specific person because each antidepressant has different side effects during pregnancy and potential effects on the baby.

Conclusion: Causes of Antidepressants

While antidepressants are helpful and can be life-changing, they are not a cure-all. These drugs should be taken alongside therapy and lifestyle changes to combat depression truly. If someone is taking antidepressants, they should follow up with their doctor regularly to make sure the medication is working and not having any adverse side effects.


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