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Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Depression Medications

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Updated September 26, 2013

Information about the types of depression medications and important facts you need to know about them.

1. What Are the Different Types of Depression Medications?

Imbalances in three chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, are believed to play a role in depression: norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. Antidepressants are classified by how they affect these chemicals.

2. Where Can I Find Reliable Drug Information?

In order to provide you with quality information about your medications, About.com has partnered with Gold Standard, a leading developer of drug information databases and software. Gold Standard is a provider of drug information for many hospitals, pharmacies and medical schools across the U.S. so you can trust them to provide you with reliable and timely information about your prescription drugs.
  • About.com Drug Finder

3. How Do Antidepressants Work?

Antidepressants work by affecting levels of chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are believed to regulate mood. Different classes of antidepressants affect these neurotransmitters in different ways.

4. Are Antidepressants Safe During Pregnancy?

Deciding whether you should stop your medication when you become pregnant is a difficult decision to make with no absolutely right or wrong answer. On the one hand, you may be concerned that it will harm your baby's health, but, on the other hand, untreated depression comes with its own set of risks.

5. What Side Effects Can I Expect?

In addition to searching the About.com Drug Finder, you can obtain information about potential side effects from the package insert which comes with your medication, from your doctor or pharmacist and from the manufacturer's Web site. You can supplement this information and learn how others are dealing with these side effects by talking with other patients. Our Side Effects Index is a collection of people's real experiences with various medications.

6. How Can I Reduce Sexual Dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction is a common side effect with many antidepressants, in particular SSRIs. Patients may experience low libido, erectile dysfunction and difficulties with orgasm. These are the top doctor-recommended tips for coping with antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction.

7. How Can I Avoid Discontinuation Symptoms?

With certain antidepressants, such as SSRIs (Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil, Zoloft) and SNRIs (Effexor, Cymbalta), it is possible that you will experience symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue and electric shock sensations if you stop taking them too abruptly. This article discusses possible methods to alleviate these symptoms. It is not meant to constitute medical advice, but rather presents ideas from experts in psychiatric medications that you can discuss with your own physician. You should never discontinue a medication without speaking to your doctor.

8. How Does My Doctor Select My Antidepressant?

The selection of an antidepressant is not nearly so random as it might feel. There is a definite logic behind the sequence of antidepressants that your doctor will try as he seeks the right one for you.

9. Should I Avoid Alcohol?

You should consult with your doctor or pharmacist regarding your specific medication; but, consuming alcohol is a bad idea with many antidepressants. If your antidepressant acts as a sedative, alcohol will strengthen its effects. In addition, if you consume alcohol on a regular basis, it can either strengthen or weaken your antidepressant's effects. Also, those using MAOIs should be aware that consuming beer or wine with this class of medication may lead to a dangerous rise in blood pressure, due to the tyramine content of these beverages.

If you are having difficulty abstaining from alcohol, it is possible that you have been self-medicating your depression.

10. Are Antidepressants Risky for Kids?

The latest analysis of the data, published in the April 18, 2007 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that while there was an increased risk of suicidality in children taking an antidepressant (one child in 100 experienced a worsening of suicidal feelings above what would normally be expected), the benefits of treatment still outweigh the risks.

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