How to Choose a Depression Medication

Antidepressants are most often prescribed to patients with moderate to severe depression. However, they can also be effectively used on individuals who have mild depression or anxiety disorders as well. While depression medication will not "cure" this condition, it can effectively minimize symptoms and improve a patient's quality of life. To ensure success with a depression medication, it is important to choose the best medicine for your specific needs and symptoms.


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    Learn about the various types of depression medication, beginning with the 4 different categories of antidepressants commonly prescribed. Ask your doctor why he is suggesting a particular medication for your condition.
    • Antidepressants fall into 4 basic categories; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). All of these medications work by altering the level of certain chemicals in the brain, particularly serotonin. Since they all work by slightly different mechanisms, patients will find that one type of antidepressant may be more appropriate for their specific symptoms.
    • Be aware that SSRIs, the most common type of antidepressant, are not usually suggested for women who are pregnant or patients over 65. MAOIs and TCAs are older antidepressants that tend to produce more side effects and are not typically used as a first course of action in treating depression.
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    Review your depression symptoms. Find a medication that specifically addresses them.
    • Different medications for depression work in different ways, addressing a variety of depression symptoms. For example, a patient who deals with chronic fatigue as a result of depression may need a medication that offers mild stimulation. Patients who have difficulty sleeping may need a formula that provides sedation. Individuals who experience anxiety in addition to depression may require a medication that address anxiety symptoms, like a racing heartbeat and dizziness, as well.
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    Find out if a close relative has ever taken a depression medication, since this might indicate which medication will work the best for you as well.
    • If a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, has successfully taken a specific antidepressant medication in the past, there is a good chance that the drug will be effective for you as well. In some cases, starting with these medication choices offers the best and fastest odds for effective treatment.
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    Consider other medications you are taking or additional medical conditions, to avoid possible drug interactions.
    • The best depression medication will depend on whether you have been diagnosed with other medical conditions and are currently taking medication for them. For example, women who are taking Tamoxifen for breast cancer may experience drug interactions if they take some types of antidepressant medication while on the Tamoxifen. Women who are pregnant also need to choose a depression medication that is safe during pregnancy.
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    Give a medication time to work before making a decision.
    • Most depression and anxiety medication takes time before symptoms of the condition begin to improve. Many drugs take between 4 and 6 weeks before they offer full therapeutic benefit. It is important to give antidepressant medication sufficient time to work before you determine if it is the right formula for your condition.
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    Monitor for side effects while taking the depression medication.
    • Medication for depression can cause side effects, although specific symptoms vary from one medication--and one person--to another. Some of the most common side effects associated with these drugs include insomnia, nausea, decreased sex drive, weight gain, dry mouth and dizziness. Patients that experience any side effects from the medication may want to try a different drug to determine whether the new medication is easier to tolerate.

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Categories: Medication and Medical Equipment | Depression