Antidepressants are medications used to treat depression as well as a number of other conditions, including anxiety disorders, chronic pain syndromes, and certain sleep disorders. They work by correcting the imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in an improvement in mood and emotional state. The mode of action and the specific neurotransmitters affected by different antidepressants vary depending on the class of medication.

Major classes of antidepressants

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) : These are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants today and are considered relatively safe with fewer side effects. Examples include fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram and escitalopram. They work by blocking serotonin reuptake in the brain, which increases serotonin concentrations in synapses.
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) : These drugs, such as venlafaxine and duloxetine, increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) : Although effective, TCAs such as amitriptyline and imipramine have more potential side effects and are typically used in patients who do not respond to other treatments.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) : This older class of antidepressants includes isocarboxazid and phenelzine. They block the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which breaks down serotonin and norepinephrine, but are used less frequently due to food and drug interactions.
  • Atypical antidepressants : This group includes drugs that do not fit into the above categories and have different mechanisms, such as bupropion and mirtazapine.

application areas

In addition to treating depression, antidepressants are also used for:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic disorders
  • Social phobia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Chronic pain syndromes

Side effects

The side effects of antidepressants can vary depending on the specific medication class and the individual patient, but often include:

  • Nausea and indigestion
  • Weight gain
  • sleep disorders
  • Dry mouth
  • dizziness
  • Headache
  • Sexual dysfunctions

Important to note

  • Selecting an antidepressant depends on the patient's specific diagnosis, symptoms, possible side effects, and personal preferences.
  • Antidepressants often take several weeks to have a noticeable effect.
  • It is important not to stop taking antidepressants suddenly, as this can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
  • A combination of medication and psychotherapy often shows the best results in treating depression.

The decision to use an antidepressant should always be made in close consultation with a specialist to ensure the best and safest treatment strategy for the individual.

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