Are you considering taking an antidepressant but are unsure what one to pick? There are several different kinds, and each type works differently for each person, so finding the right drug can take some trial and error. Read on for some of the pros and cons of the more common types of antidepressants.
The brain is full of neurotransmitters, which essentially act as messengers between your brain cells. One type of neurotransmitter is called serotonin, and it helps regulate mood, appetite, and your sleep cycles. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors-- generally referred to as SSRIs-- keep serotonin from being reabsorbed by the brain. In many people, altering the amount of serotonin in the brain helps with depression.
SSRIs were somewhat revolutionary when they were first discovered. This is because, unlike other antidepressants of the time, the side effects from SSRIs are mild for most people. Common side effects include nausea, weight gain, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and fatigue. As the body becomes accustomed to the drug, side effects usually lessen. SSRIs are considered safe for long term use, as well. As for disadvantages, some patients may find that they experience withdrawal after deciding to quit the medication, especially if they do so cold turkey.
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (known as SNRIs,) work very similarly to SSRIs. However, instead of just altering the way serotonin is absorbed, they also affect norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that affects mood as well as pain perception. For this reason, SNRIs are sometimes used to treat conditions involving nerve pain, such as fibromyalgia, in addition to depression.
SNRIs are newer than SSRIs, and some patients find that they carry fewer side effects. Constipation, nausea, insomnia, and appetite loss are among the more common side effects, although they tend to decrease over time. SNRIs may also cause withdrawal symptoms when stopped abruptly, which is why it's important to work with your doctor to taper your dosage if you decide to quit taking the medication.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (also known as MAOIs,) were originally the only option for treating depression, and they are still used today. MAOIs work by inhibiting monoamine oxidase from doing its job. Monoamine oxidase is responsible for removing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine from the brain, and inhibiting it may help improve your mood.
MAOIs aren't prescribed as often as their newer cousins because the side effects tend to be more severe. Muscle aches, low blood pressure, difficulty urinating, and weight gain are typical. Still, some people who don't have success with other types of antidepressants are able to find relief from their depression with MAOIs, in spite of the side effects.
Work with your doctor to determine which type of antidepressant is right for you. You can also go to sites of local therapists or doctors to learn more about treatment options.