What is depression treatment?


Depression is a mental health issue that starts most often in early adulthood. It’s also more common in women. However, anyone at any age may deal with depression.

Depression affects your brain, so drugs that work in your brain may prove beneficial. Common antidepressants may help ease your symptoms, but there are many other options as well. Each drug used to treat depression works by balancing certain chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. These drugs work in slightly different ways to ease your depression symptoms.

Many common drugs fall into the following drug classes:

  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • tetracyclic antidepressant
  • dopamine reuptake blocker
  • 5-HT1A receptor antagonist
  • 5-HT2 receptor antagonists
  • 5-HT3 receptor antagonist
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • noradrenergic antagonist

Atypical antidepressants, which don’t fall into these drug classes, and natural treatments such as St. John’s wort are also available.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants. An imbalance of serotonin may play a role in depression. These drugs fight depression symptoms by decreasing serotonin reuptake in your brain. This effect leaves more serotonin available to work in your brain.

SSRIs include:

  • sertraline (Zoloft)
  • fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
  • citalopram (Celexa)
  • escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva, Brisdelle)
  • fluvoxamine (Luvox)

Common side effects of SSRIs include:

  • nausea
  • trouble sleeping
  • nervousness
  • tremors
  • sexual problems

    Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

    TCAs are often prescribed when SSRIs or other antidepressants don’t work. It isn’t fully understood how these drugs work to treat depression.

    TCAs include:

    • amitriptyline
    • amoxapine
    • clomipramine (Anafranil)
    • desipramine (Norpramin)
    • doxepin
    • imipramine (Tofranil)
    • nortriptyline (Pamelor)
    • protriptyline
    • trimipramine (Surmontil)

    Common side effects of TCAs can include:

    • constipation
    • dry mouth
    • fatigue

    The more serious side effects of these drugs include:

    • low blood pressure
    • irregular heart rate
    • seizures

      Tetracyclic antidepressant

      Maprotiline is used to treat depression and anxiety. It also works by balancing neurotransmitters to ease symptoms of depression.

      Common side effects of this drug include:

      • drowsiness
      • weakness
      • lightheadedness
      • headache
      • blurry vision
      • dry mouth

        Dopamine reuptake blocker

        Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Forfivo, Aplenzin) is a mild dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake blocker. It’s used for depression and seasonal affective disorder. It’s also used in smoking cessation.

        Common side effects include:

        • nausea
        • vomiting
        • constipation
        • dizziness
        • blurry vision

          5-HT1A receptor antagonist

          The drug in this class that’s used to treat depression is called vilazodone (Viibryd). It works by balancing serotonin levels and other neurotransmitters.

          This drug is rarely used as a first-line treatment for depression. That means it’s usually only prescribed when other medications didn’t work for you or caused bothersome side effects.

          Side effects can include:

          • nausea
          • vomiting
          • trouble sleeping

            5-HT2 receptor antagonists

            Two 5-HT2 receptor antagonists, nefazodone and trazodone (Oleptro), are used to treat depression. These are older drugs. They alter chemicals in your brain to help depression.

            Common side effects include:

            • drowsiness
            • dizziness
            • dry mouth

              5-HT3 receptor antagonist

              The 5-HT3 receptor antagonist vortioxetine (Brintellix) treats depression by affecting the activity of brain chemicals.

              Common side effects include:

              • sexual problems
              • nausea

                Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

                MAOIs are older drugs that treat depression. They work by stopping the breakdown of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. They’re more difficult for people to take than most other antidepressants because they interact with prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and some foods. They also can’t be combined with stimulants or other antidepressants.

                MAOIs include:

                • isocarboxazid (Marplan)
                • phenelzine (Nardil)
                • selegiline (Emsam), which comes as a transdermal patch
                • tranylcypromine (Parnate)
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