Depression is a mental disorder characterized by prolonged feelings of sadness and despair. Fortunately, it is a treatable condition. While antidepressants are usually effective at relieving symptoms, the best treatment involves both depression medication and therapy.
For most forms of depression, selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants are the first course of treatment. An SSRI for depression is effective at treating mild to moderate depression, and has fewer side effects than other types of depression medication.
SSRI Depression Medication
SSRI antidepressants are a relatively new class of depression medication, first introduced in the late 1980s. An SSRI for depression works by preventing certain nerve cells in the brain from absorbing too much serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood. Research indicates that low levels of serotonin are linked to depression and other mood disorders. By preventing nerve cells from absorbing serotonin, SSRI antidepressants elevate levels of serotonin, relieving many symptoms of depression.
Commonly prescribed SSRI depression medication options include:
- Citalopram (CelexaÂ®)
- Escitalopram (LexaproÂ®)
- Fluoxetine (ProzacÂ®)
- Fluvoxamine (LuvoxÂ®)
- Paroxetine (PaxilÂ®)
- Sertraline (ZoloftÂ®).
Pros and Cons of Taking a SSRI for Depression
SSRI antidepressants are often just as effective as older types of antidepressants, but with fewer and less severe side effects. Although some patients experience withdrawal symptoms when treatment ceases, these symptoms are often very mild. SSRI depression medication is also less toxic than other forms of antidepressants in the event of an overdose.
SSRIs do have some drawbacks, however. Although they cause milder reactions than older antidepressants, there are some side effects. Since serotonin also plays a role in libido, sleep, digestion, pain and mental clarity, adjusted levels of serotonin may cause:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dry mouth
- Low libido and other sexual problems
- Weight gain.
When considering SSRI antidepressants, keep in mind that this depression medication is ineffective at treating children and adolescents. Research also indicates that SSRIs may increase the risk of falls, fractures and bone loss in patients over 65.
Withdrawal symptoms may occur if you suddenly stop taking a SSRI for depression, so you’ll want to stop treatment gradually. And, as is the case with all antidepressants, SSRIs put patients at an increased risk of suicide in the first few weeks of treatment, so watch out for any self-destructive or suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Croft, H. (2010). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Retrieved June 7, 2010, from http://www.healthyplace.com/depression/antidepressants/selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitors-ssris/menu-id-68/.
Masterton, G. (2003). The pros and cons of SSRI antidepressants. Retrieved June 7, 2010, from http://www.behindthemedicalheadlines.com/articles/the-pros-and-cons-of-ssri-antidepressants.