If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from depression, you might be considering medication to help treat the condition. Antidepressant medications are a common, effective way to treat depression. But if it’s your first time going down this route, it can feel scary and overwhelming. An excellent place to start is educating yourself on the options out there so you can understand what’s being recommended to you and what you may want to say yes or no to. Here’s a comprehensive antidepressants list that will give you a complete rundown of the most popular types of antidepressants and how each one works.
Understanding the Role of Medications in Managing Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. This disease typically impacts a person’s quality of life, as they find it challenging to find happiness, participate in daily functions and get the most from their relationships. Depression also has a wide range, where some individuals suffer from mild symptoms and others have a deep depression that can lead to suicidal thoughts and be life-threatening.
Extensive research into mental illness has allowed us to understand that depression isn’t something people can snap themselves out of. Instead, depression is caused by many potential factors, such as genetics, trauma and faulty mood regulation by the brain.
Luckily, depression is also highly treatable. Most commonly, a combination of medication and cognitive therapy is prescribed. The role of antidepressants is to help relieve depression symptoms and reduce the chances of depression returning.
And for many people, antidepressants are incredibly effective. One study found that “antidepressants improved symptoms in about an extra 20 out of 100 people.” Taking antidepressants over a long period also helped prevent a depressive relapse in 27 out of 100 people.
The challenge comes in understanding which antidepressants to take. There are several types of antidepressants on the market, and people respond differently to each medication. Individuals often have to test several medication types, brands and dosages to find the right fit. That’s why it’s important to know what antidepressants are available and how each works.
Three Main Categories of Antidepressants
There are three main categories of antidepressants: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and atypical antidepressants.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are one of the most popular antidepressant medications used. SSRIs are used to treat depression and other mental health conditions like anxiety, OCD and PTSD.
It’s believed that SSRIs help reduce depression symptoms by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that carries signals between nerve cells in the brain. This critical natural chemical impacts a person’s mood and emotions and plays a role in other vital functions such as sleep, memory and learning.
Typically, serotonin is reabsorbed into neurons (a process known as “reuptake”) after a message has been successfully delivered. SSRIs inhibit the reuptake process, leaving more serotonin available. And having more serotonin available generally improves mood and promotes positive emotions.
It’s important to understand that depression isn’t simply explained as someone not producing enough serotonin. However, taking SSRIs to increase serotonin levels does have a positive impact in reducing depression symptoms.
SSRIs are the most common and usually the first choice of antidepressant most doctors prescribe because they typically have fewer side effects than other antidepressants.
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors increase serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Both of these are neurotransmitters that work as chemical messengers.
As described above, serotonin plays a significant role in regulating a person’s mood and emotions. On the other hand, norepinephrine helps increase attention, alertness and arousal. People battling with depression often deal with feelings of lethargy, low motivation and decreased sexual desire, all of which can intensify depressive episodes.
SNRIs are similar to SSRIs, but they increase norepinephrine in addition to serotonin. SNRIs use the same process as SSRIs and block the reabsorption of the chemicals to leave more serotonin and norepinephrine active in the brain.
Both SNRIs and SSRIs work similarly and are effective ways to treat depression. Additionally, both come with a risk of mild side effects. However, some report that side effects can be more severe with SNRIs, but sometimes, this just means a change is needed in the brand or dosage. You can work with your doctor to understand which medication best suits you.
“Atypical antidepressants” is often used to describe antidepressants that aren’t SSRIs or SNRIs. Often, atypical antidepressants are used when a patient has felt SSRIs and SNRIs didn’t work for them.
As with SSRIs and SNRIs, atypical antidepressants restore the balance of neurotransmitters, but each medication works differently.
Interestingly, bupropion doesn’t focus on serotonin at all. Instead, it aims to boost dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters to improve motivation, focus and energy levels. Often, doctors will prescribe bupropion to a patient who’s complaining of these depressive symptoms:
- Oversleeping and fatigue
- Weight gain
- Poor concentration
Trazodone is an atypical antidepressant that boosts serotonin levels. This medication is most often prescribed to treat sleeping problems, including nightmares and insomnia.
Mirtazapine, like SNRIs, boosts both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. It’s known for working more quickly than other antidepressants and can help improve sleep.
Vortioxetine boosts serotonin levels and improves mood.
Interestingly, many of the medications used to treat depression are also commonly used to treat anxiety. And many people who suffer from depression also struggle with anxiety. If you’re curious about what can be done for your anxiety, take the time to research an anxiety medication list and all the anxiety medication names.
A Complete Antidepressants List
If you’d like to dive further into researching the world of antidepressants, here’s a complete antidepressants list for you to review:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Desvenlafaxine (Khedezla, Pristiq)
- Desyrel Dividose
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta, Drizalma, Irenka)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
- Milnacipran (Savella)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
Get Help Today
If there’s one thing you should take away from your research, it’s that antidepressants work. If you ever feel you’re suffering from serious side effects from your antidepressants, you must speak to your doctor about adjusting or changing your prescription.
You don’t have to live with depression; get help and improve your quality of life today.
If you don’t know where to turn for help, let FHE Health be your resource. FHE Health offers comprehensive mental health treatment that follows your needs and preferences. We can help you identify what antidepressants are right for you. Contact us today to get back to living a happier, healthier life.