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Antidepressants and the main facts

As the name suggests, an antidepressant is a medication that the doctors prescribes in cases of depression. However, this is only the primary use, since antidepressants can be used in the treatment of a number of other conditions,  some of which are not related to depression. Some of the conditions that usually require the use of antidepressants are panic and anxiety attacks, obsessive compulsive disorders, eating disorders and even chronic pain. There are several types of antidepressants, and they are:

  • SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • MAOIs or monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • SNRIs or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
  • Tricyclic antidepressants.

Even though their mechanism of action is not really clear, it is believed that antidepressants affect certain chemicals in the brain, thus increasing their activity. These chemicals are neurotransmitters and they transmit signals between the brain cells. Antidepressants, most frequently used today, are those from the group of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, since they do not have many side effects, and are usually quite effective from the beginning.

Side effects of antidepressants

The fact is that it is not always easy to find the best possible antidepressant for someones illness.. The doctors might be familiar with all the symptoms of each individual case, but even then they cannot predict how an individual will react to a particular antidepressant. Even in people with similar symptoms the same medication might cause different reactions, which is why the patients have to be familiar with the possible side effects, as well as with the possibility that it will probably be necessary to try a few medications before finding the one that is most effective and tolerated.

The majority of side effects is usually present for only a short period of time, until the body gets used to the medication, but the fact is that tricyclic and monoamine oxidase inhibitors are likely to cause much more side effects than SSRIs and SNRIs. However, generally speaking, the most frequently experienced problems are nausea, headache, constipation, dizziness, nervousness, sleepiness and insomnia, but sexual problems and changes in the appetite and either weight loss of weight gain are also frequently reported. Side effects that are serious and require immediate visit to the doctor are anxiety, aggressiveness, hallucinations, pain in the chest, suicidal thoughts and signs of serotonin syndrome. These are only some of the side effects that are possible, but the list is much longer and the doctor should provide more information about them.

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