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Antidepressants can be very effective at treating moderate to severe depression

Treatments for depression can be in the form of medication or talking therapies. Antidepressants are proven to help reduce the severity of the depression, hasten recovery and protect against a relapse.

In most cases antidepressants do not treat the cause of the depression unless the depression is caused by chemical imbalances.

Are antidepressants right for me?

Understanding the reasons for your depression is the first step to knowing whether antidepressants are right for you.

Antidepressants are not a magic pill that can take your life problems away. In cases of mild to moderate depression, talking therapies may be more appropriate and give longer lasting effects.

For those with neurochemical disorders such as bipolar disorder or moderate to severe depression antidepressants can be very effective. In many cases taking antidepressants along with a talking therapy such as counselling or psychotherapy is the most effective way of treating depression. We can help with both.

Prescribing antidepressants

Antidepressants need to be prescribed by a psychiatrist or GP.

During your assessment you will have a full medical history and discuss your symptoms. There are several types of antidepressant you can take as not all antidepressants work for all people. Your psychiatrist will work with you to ensure you are taking the right antidepressant and also to make sure you are taking the right dosage.

How do antidepressants work?

The brain consists of many nerve cells that relay messages back and forth, controlling our movements, emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

It is thought that one cause of depression could be due to changes in the levels of the chemicals (neurotransmitters) that relay these messages. Common antidepressants target two of these neurotransmitters, serotonin and noreadrenaline.

The antidepressants work by prohibiting the nerve cells from reabsorbing the neurotransmitters, once they have relayed their messages. Essentially this creates higher levels of these chemicals in the brain, which in turn decreases the feeling of depression.

Side effects of antidepressants:

“40% of those taking antidepressants report side effects. 25% of those say they are severe enough to change medication.”

Journal of Psychiatry volume 52, issue 12 December 2001 pp1615-1620

There is lots of information on the internet regarding the side effects of antidepressants with many asking whether the side effects are worse than the depression.

Side effects can unfortunately be quite common when taking antidepressants, particularly in the first few weeks. They often cease after this time, once the individual has built up a tolerance to the drugs. Antidepressants can be hugely effective at making someone who is suffering with depression feel better and for those with severe depression or suicidal thoughts, they can be a lifeline.

Common side effects of antidepressants

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Sickness
  • Weight gain
  • Trouble with sleeping – drowsiness in the day / trouble getting to sleep at night
  • Sexual functioning problems – lack of libido, erectile dysfunction, difficulties achieving orgasm

The side effects can be severe enough that people stop taking their medication as prescribed. It is very important that you discuss any changes to the way that you take your antidepressants with your prescribing consultant before you make changes.

Withdrawal symptoms for antidepressants:

A study by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants were very common with 63% of people surveyed reporting some side effects.

The most common side effects were anxiety, dizziness, vivid dreams and ‘head zaps’. Other side effects include tremors, hallucinations, and sleep issues.

It is thought that the withdrawal symptoms could be caused by the impact that the reduced levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Some symptoms may also be due to a relapse of the depression so watching out for these signs is important.

If you are thinking of stopping your antidepressants we advise you to discuss this with your advising physician, so they can carefully manage the process of weaning you off them.

To speak to someone today about how we can help you, please call 0203 326 9160.

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