Depression: How Meds Can Help

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Depression: How Medicine Can Help

What is depression?

Depression is a medical illness, like diabetes or high blood pressure. People don't choose to be depressed. It's not because they're weak or "crazy." Depression affects more than 17 million people in the United States each year. It's twice as common in women as in men. Symptoms of depression include the following:

  • Feeling sad most of the day, nearly every day, for 2 weeks or longer
  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleep and appetite disturbances
  • Weight changes
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness
  • Not being able to make decisions
  • Thoughts of death and suicide
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What causes depression?

The exact cause of depression is not known. Doctors think it may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The imbalance could be caused by your genes or by events in your life. Sometimes there aren't enough chemical messengers (called neurotransmitters) in the brain. Two primary messengers, called serotonin (say "seer-o-tone-in") and norepinephrine (say "nor-ep-in-ef-rin"), are responsible for your moods (how you feel).

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How will my doctor treat my depression?

Depression can be treated with medicine, counseling or both. The combination of medicine with counseling helps most people. Counseling can help you change a negative view of yourself, your past and your future. Exercising on a regular basis and avoiding alcohol, illegal drugs and too much caffeine can also help.

Medicines that treat depression are called antidepressants. They help increase the number of chemical messengers (serotonin and norepinephrine) in your brain.

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How will my doctor choose an antidepressant for me?

Your doctor will probably think about the following 10 points when choosing an antidepressant medicine for you:

  1. If you were depressed before and a certain antidepressant worked well, that antidepressant might be the right choice of medicine for you again.
  2. If any of your brothers or sisters, parents, uncles or aunts had depression and a certain antidepressant worked well for them, that medicine might work for you too.
  3. The choice of an antidepressant depends on your health. If a certain antidepressant would have a bad effect on a health problem you have, that medicine wouldn't be the right choice for you.
  4. Antidepressants may cause side effects. The right medicine for you may be the one that gives you the fewest side effects.
  5. The choice of an antidepressant depends on how often you have to take it. The less often you have to take the medicine, the easier it is for you to take all the doses you need to treat your depression.
  6. Some antidepressants cost more than others. Your doctor will choose an antidepressant that works for you and that you can afford.
  7. Your doctor will want to choose a medicine he or she has experience prescribing.
  8. Your doctor will choose an antidepressant that will help you with symptoms like sleeplessness, anxiety and lack of energy.
  9. If you're taking other medicines, your doctor will consider how an antidepressant will work with these other medicines.
  10. Some antidepressants don't work well with certain foods. If your doctor gives you one of these antidepressants, he or she will let you know which foods you should stop eating.
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Are antidepressants tranquilizers or "uppers"? Can I get addicted to them?

No. These drugs aren't tranquilizers. They don't give you a "high." They aren't addictive.

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Do antidepressants cause side effects?

Yes. All antidepressants have some side effects. However, not all people taking antidepressants get these side effects. Most of the side effects happen in the early weeks of therapy and lessen after a little while.

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What are some of the common side effects of antidepressants?

Different antidepressants can cause different side effects. Possible side effects may include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Bladder problems
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness when standing up
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Feeling of weakness
  • Hand tremors
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle twitching
  • Nausea
  • Sexual dysfunction (inability to ejaculate or to have an orgasm)
  • Tremor
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain
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What if the side effects don't go away after a little while?

Talk to your doctor. He or she may change your dosage, or you might try another medicine to get rid of the side effects.

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How will I know if my antidepressant is working?

You will be able to sleep better. You'll be better able to meet your day-to-day obligations and take care of yourself (such as caring for your hair, dressing well, eating regularly). You will have more energy. Your weight problems will get better, and your appetite will be closer to "normal." You will have an increased desire to live. You and your family and friends will notice these changes. Be patient, though. It may take some time to get back to the way you felt before the depression.

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How long will I take the antidepressant?

Your doctor will let you know how long to take your antidepressant. If this is the first time you have been treated for depression, you will probably continue to take this medicine for about 6 months after you begin to feel better. If this is the second time you've been depressed, you might keep taking the medicine for at least a year. Depression that comes back a third time may require you to continue taking an antidepressant for a long time.

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Can I drink alcohol when I'm taking an antidepressant?

No. You should not drink alcohol because it might have a bad effect on you. You might be strongly affected by even a little bit of alcohol when you're taking an antidepressant.

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Where can I get more information about depression?

Your doctor is the first person you should talk to.

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Thanks for posting! All i have to say is: If you are going to put someone on anti-depressants (as a therapist) be very careful and get an extensive medical information on them whether or not they are suicidal. Because anti depressants can also cause some people to have so much energy they actually use it towards killing themselves.

i just learnt this today in class. Thought I would show off.

 

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Thanks for the |REALLY informative post! There's still a lot of prejudice towards mental illness and the people who have them.

 
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Originally Posted by empericalbeauty /img/forum/go_quote.gif Thanks for posting! All i have to say is: If you are going to put someone on anti-depressants (as a therapist) be very careful and get an extensive medical information on them whether or not they are suicidal. Because anti depressants can also cause some people to have so much energy they actually use it towards killing themselves.
i just learnt this today in class. Thought I would show off.

hey you got some excellent info there, absolutely true. We learned this is especially important with patients who have bipolar disorder and are being put on mood stabilizers, they need to start off with an antidepressant before the actual bipolar-meds.
And a lot of antidepressants can´t be described to teenagers because they may become suicidal as well.

Originally Posted by lia_matos /img/forum/go_quote.gif Thanks for the |REALLY informative post! There's still a lot of prejudice towards mental illness and the people who have them. So true. Ya know what´s funny, I used to be one of those people before I battled depression myself. I thought "I´m so NOT gonna take antidepressants, I know which side effects they can have, and I´m not going through this. And I`m NOT crazy, so there is no way I´m taking that stuff"
*I´m hiding in shame now for thinking this way* lol

I guess it´s because we had to study long lists of possible side effects, so that scared me off. And yes, the first med I got made me feel like crap, but the second med was wonderful, zero side effects!

 
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great article, i am currently battleing this myself i have been on meds now for a week. my dic has given me great info tho im still unsure of the meds. she has given me another 2 weeks of it but have a weekly check in to see how i go. hopefully the affects that im having atm will go away. ive been feelin tired at night about 9pm and i feel sick the next day if i take them at night, but she also that is due ti my body gettin used to them, we will see how we go in the next few weeks

sorry for taking over the post

 
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I have Bi Polar Disorder and I feel so blessed that my medication keeps me stable. I used to think medication was a crutch, not anymore!

 
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Originally Posted by Andi /img/forum/go_quote.gif hey you got some excellent info there, absolutely true. We learned this is especially important with patients who have bipolar disorder and are being put on mood stabilizers, they need to start off with an antidepressant before the actual bipolar-meds.
And a lot of antidepressants can´t be described to teenagers because they may become suicidal as well.

Whew! i was waiting on someone to confirm what i said cus my teacher is really boring and i think i nodded off a bit. What class did you take?
 
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Originally Posted by chantelle8686 /img/forum/go_quote.gif great article, i am currently battleing this myself i have been on meds now for a week. my dic has given me great info tho im still unsure of the meds. she has given me another 2 weeks of it but have a weekly check in to see how i go. hopefully the affects that im having atm will go away. ive been feelin tired at night about 9pm and i feel sick the next day if i take them at night, but she also that is due ti my body gettin used to them, we will see how we go in the next few weekssorry for taking over the post

Don't be sorry. It can take time for you to adjust. I hope you feel better soon. I think antidepressants should be taken in the morning. If you take them at night, the time when they are most effective would be while you were sleeping. Do you eat something when you take them?
 
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Originally Posted by empericalbeauty /img/forum/go_quote.gif Whew! i was waiting on someone to confirm what i said cus my teacher is really boring and i think i nodded off a bit. What class did you take? I´m in med school and we learned about psychotropic meds and mental illnesses last year. It was one of my favorite topics so far, it´s very fascinating!!!
 
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THanks for posting this. I had depression in high school and unfortunatley was put on some "bad" meds. I eventually overcame it without the meds, but not everyone does. Great post.

 
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For nearly 2 years, I had depression. I was but on wellbutrin, but quickly stopped because the pills made me feel really strange. I recently overcame my depression by personally changing all of the things in my life that I considered to be the root of my depression. It was hard to do, but now I love life again and everything it has to offer!!

 
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Originally Posted by Andi /img/forum/go_quote.gif I´m in med school and we learned about psychotropic meds and mental illnesses last year. It was one of my favorite topics so far, it´s very fascinating!!! Thats exciting! anything with the prefix "psycho" in it, i immediately tune in. I think frankly thats one of the reasons i major in psychology..just being able to understand the dynamics of the human mind...mmm..If i ever venture into clinical psychology, i might have to go to med school. i am definitely hitting you up cus chemistry, biology and all that jazz isnt really my thing. i have dropped so many biology classes everyone jokes that i have a phobia.
 
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I have depression and anxiety. I don't take any medicine. I think in this country we have this quick fix idea and we take medicine for everything and anything which is not good. Granted my depression is mild, it still affects me but I do other things to help it. You know that exercising actually helps fight depression and brighten your mood. Anything just to keep yourself busy or you can change your diet to help fight depression. Medicine has just too many side effects/

 
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Originally Posted by NYchic /img/forum/go_quote.gif I have depression and anxiety. I don't take any medicine. I think in this country we have this quick fix idea and we take medicine for everything and anything which is not good. Granted my depression is mild, it still affects me but I do other things to help it. You know that exercising actually helps fight depression and brighten your mood. Anything just to keep yourself busy or you can change your diet to help fight depression. Medicine has just too many side effects/ I agree that exercise is good and releases endorphins so it peps you up. I also agree that meds are overprescribed for periods of "sadness". On the flip side, I have had crippling, debilitating depression in my life. I have literally spent days in bed. Without medication I might not be here today to be writing this. Medicine does have it's place when prescribed and taken correctly.
 
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Well, as a person who was a psychology double major in college, I am interested in all of this. I am more interested since I am a long time (over a decade) sufferer of depression (and comorbid anxiety), and dealt with PCOS, mild OCD, and other anxiety-related disorders over the years, which have thankfully subsided.

Medicine is a very helpful thing in getting through the initial feelings of depression, and helps the symptoms very well if you are diagnosed correctly, and find the best medication for you. However, medicine is not a cure, and not the best fix option. Therapy and talking about it is the only way to sort out the underlying issues.

I have been told on numerous occasions, and know for a fact that depression doesn't go away with medication, it just masks the symptoms that will still inevitably be there if you don't deal with the internal issues. Of course depression can merely be a "chemical imbalance", but depression in a lot of cases develops because of something outside.

I have yet to face my demons, which is why I am still depressed. I know I will never be truly better until I get the strength to do that. Until then, therapy first and foremost, and then my meds help.

 

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