Antidepressants are prescription medications primarily used to treat clinical depression. Doctors may prescribe these medicines for patients experiencing major depression, and they can also be beneficial for individuals who have depression that occurs in conjunction with anxiety or depression that is the result of bipolar disorder or cyclothymic disorder. Antidepressants are generally taken by mouth, and most patients take them at least once per day. Doctors can adjust the dosage depending on the patient’s needs, and they may recommend attending counseling sessions in addition to taking the medication. Patients should have their mood and progress monitored periodically by their physician, and they should report any side effects or new symptoms they experience. Patients who wish to discontinue antidepressants will need to speak to their doctor about how to appropriately taper the medication, as stopping it abruptly could lead to withdrawal symptoms.
The major types of antidepressants in use today are described below.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are currently the most widely prescribed type of antidepressant medication. These medicines work by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain, and they are beneficial for patients with moderate to severe depression. Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine, citalopram, and escitalopram. In addition to treating depression, SSRIs may be prescribed to treat anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a newer form of antidepressant, and they generally have fewer side effects than older antidepressants. However, patients taking SSRIs should still be aware of the potential side effects, including headache, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and dizziness. Some patients could notice restlessness, agitation, or changes in weight (either weight loss or gain). The side effects are most likely to occur within the first month of treatment, and patients who find the side effects of a particular SSRI too troublesome may be able to successfully tolerate another on. Since this kind of medication could increase the risk of bleeding, patients should inform their doctor about any anticoagulants they take before SSRIs are prescribed, and it may be necessary to avoid over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories during treatment.
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