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Depression Medications

Questions and Answers

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Updated October 08, 2009

Depression medications (antidepressants) are often needed to treat the symptoms of depression. Depression can occur as part of a bipolar illness, a recurrent depressive illness and as an episode in someone without a pre-existing diagnosis of a mood disorder.

How Do I Know Which Depression Medication to Take?

This is something you and your doctor have to discuss. Because each type of depression medication works differently, some people have to try several depression medications before finding the one that is right for them -- meaning, just because the first medication you try turns out not to work for you, it doesn't mean you can't be helped by another.

What Should I Discuss With My Doctor?

Your doctor should discuss possible side effects and other issues with you. Some depression medications are more likely to cause weight gain than others, for example. Some may not be a good fit with other medicines you are taking, so be sure your doctor knows about everything you take for any condition, including supplements and homeopathic remedies. Also make sure your doctor knows about any illnesses you have. This could affect the choice of what antidepressants are best for you to try.

If you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant, bring this up with the doctor. He or she may want to wait to prescribe one of the depression medications until after you give birth, or, if your depression is severe, will want to choose a drug that is least likely to cause problems for your baby. If you are nursing, your doctor should discuss with you whether it would be better to stop nursing your baby while taking one or more depression medications.

What Should I Watch for When Taking Depression Medications?

The most important thing is to notice if your depression gets worse instead of better, or if you start thinking about killing yourself. If either (or both) of these things happens, you must call your doctor right away. If you have thoughts about suicide and can't get hold of your doctor, go to an emergency room.

When you receive your prescription for depression medication, read the paper that comes with it. There is important information there about how to take it (for example, with or without food), what to do if you miss a dose, and side effects. If you know what side effects are possible, it will be easier to spot them if they occur.

The information that comes with the prescription won't list every possible side effect, so if you experience anything unusual or have any new symptoms or problems after you start to take a depression medication, tell your doctor about it. If it's severe or bothers you a lot, don't wait till your next appointment, but give the doctor a call.

Finally, if you have a serious side effect, don't stop taking a depression medication all at once without talking to your doctor or even an emergency room doctor. There can be some pretty unpleasant withdrawal effects from many antidepressants. Your doctor will determine if you need to stop taking the drug and the best way for you to stop, such as reducing the dose little by little over a period of time.

Is It Safe to Take Depression Medications?

Depression medications have been used safely by millions of people. Certainly they do all have side effects, which you can check out in our Side Effects Library, as mentioned above. And all depression medications are required in the United States to carry a warning that in children and young adults, these medications may cause or increase suicidal thinking. As discussed earlier, this means it's necessary to keep a close eye out for changes in the person's behavior that might indicate this problem is occurring.

Among people with bipolar disorder, it's also important to know that antidepressants can cause mania or worsen mood cycling. Sometimes the side effects cause enough problems that a person has to stop taking that particular depression medication and try another. And sometimes a particular depression medication does not work, or doesn't work well enough, and another one will work better, so it may be a trial and error process.

Sometimes, too, a depression medication may work for a period of time and then stop working as well. This is not unusual. At that point your doctor may choose to change you to a new drug or add a another depression medication. The process of finding the right depression medication may be discouraging at times, but we encourage you not to give up. Most people who take medications for depression do so safely and effectively.

Page 2: What Depression Medications Are There?

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