Medication For Depression Can Help

Medication for depression has helped many people suffering from the most serious clinical depressions improve.

Janis was a young woman who had been suffering from depression for many months. Her depression was so severe that she could hardly move and could talk very little.

She was discovered living at a retreat center. She had been living in an apartment owned by one of the counselors at the retreat center. As her depression progressed and her symptoms got more serious, the counselor took her to the retreat center thinking that the social contact would help. Janis got worse.

Finally the counselor called a psychologist and told him about Janis asking what she should do. The psychologist asked her to bring Janis to his office.

He found Janis in a severe depression. Her movements were slow and waxy. She made no eye contact. The only thing Janis would say was, "Help me," a phrase which she repeated over and over.

The psychologist made arrangements for Janis to enter a hospital referring her to a psychiatrist. In the hospital she was given support and the psychiatrist treated her with medication for depression.

Janis began to slowly improve after several weeks of taking the medication. Over a period of about three months, she improved so much that she was able to leave the hospital and return home. She got a job, became involved in the community and was able to become a productive member of society once again.

Stories like this are not unusual. Medication for depression cannot only help people who are suffering from serious depression like Janis, but also people who are suffering from mild and moderate depressions.

How does medication for depression help?

To answer this question, you need to know something about what happens in your brain and nervous system when you become depressed.

Your brain and nervous system are made up of millions of cells. Each of these cells is separate from all of the other cells--that is, they are not connected. Messages are passed from one cell to the next by chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.

These neurotransmitters are released from one cell, travel through a space called a synapse to another cell. When enough neurotransmitters have landed on the second cell, it responds and the message has been transmitted.

When a person becomes depressed, the cells which are receiving the neurotransmitters are not operating properly. These post-synaptic cells have slowed down their rate of responding. This keeps the messages from being passed from one cell to the next through the brain and nervous system. The neurotransmitters are unable to do their job.

The reduction in messages being passed along is one of the processes involved in depression.

Some of the neurotransmitters which are involved in a person becoming depressed are serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine.

Another substance that seems to be involved in depression is an enzyme called monoamine oxidase. Monoamine oxidase is found in many cells. It is involved in the oxidation of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin. Oxidation is a process through which cells lose oxygen. In part, it is through oxidation that neurotransmitters are broken down.

All of the medications for depression affect one or more neurotransmitters to help them do a better job passing messages through the brain and nervous system.

Some medications for depression, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), keep serotonin from being reabsorbed once it has been released into the synapse. SSRIs include Celexa, Lexa-Pro, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil, and Zoloft.

Others, called serotonin-2 antagonist/reuptake inhibitors (SARIs), oppose or block serotonin at the receptor site. Serzone and Desyrel are SARIs.

Effexor is a medication for depression which works by blocking both serotonin and norepinephrine from being reabsorbed from the synapse. It is called a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI).

A couple of medications for depression are called atypicals. It is uncertain how the first atypical medication for depression, Wellbutrin, works. It may effect dopamine or norepinephrine. Remeron is another atypical medication for depression. Remeron works by blocking or opposing serotonin reception and by enhancing both serotonin and norepinephrine.

Marplan, Nardil, and Parnate are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). They inhibit monoamine oxidase slowing down the loss of oxygen from epinephrine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Thus, these neurotransmitters stay active longer.

Tricyclic antidepressants, like the MAOIs, have been around for many years. They include Elavil, Asendin, Anafranil, Norpramin, Sinequan, Tofranil, Pamelor, Aventyl, Ludiomil, Vivactil, and Surmontil. Each of these medications for depression work by inhibiting the reabsorption of one or more of the neurotransmitters.

The final group of medications for depression are called mood stabilizers. They are most often used to treat bipolar disorder or manic depressive illness. Nevertheless, they are also used with unipolar
depressions-- clinical depressive disorders which don't involve extreme highs or manic episodes.

Mood stabilizers include Tegretol, Lamictal, Eskalith, Lithobid, and Depakote. These medications work by changing how easy it is for a cell to receive a message transmitted by the neurotransmitter.

Which medication for depression is right for me?

Only your doctor can determine which medication for depression is right for you. It is usually best to work with a psychiatrist that has experience treating clinical depressions.

Many primary care physicians and other physician specialists also treat patients with depression. They tend to be less familiar with all of the antidepressant medications, however. Thus, they are generally not as skilled in picking the right medication for depression to treat a specific patient.

Psychiatrists take many factors into consideration when choosing a medication for depression. These include the patient's depressive symptoms. The doctor will also consider if the patient has another psychiatric conditions such as an anxiety disorder or other medical problems such as cardiac problems. The doctor will consider how likely it is that the patient will follow directions such as staying on a restricted diet when a medication may interact with food.

Doctors take into account the patient's history. If a medication has not been effective in the past a different medication will probably be tried. Often combinations of medications for depression are used to get the desired result.

Is there a down side?

Although medication for depression can be helpful, there is a down side.

The medications for depression--as with all medications--have numerous side effects.

The SSRIs often cause drowsiness, sexual dysfunctions, nausea, diarrhea, and insomnia.

SARIs can result in drowsiness.

SNRIs may result in the patient experiencing drowsiness, sexual dysfunctions, nausea, diarrhea, and insomnia.

The atypical antidepressant, Wellbutrian, can cause insomnia and, at times, seizures. Remerion can cause drowsiness and weight gain.

MAOIs can cause blood pressure changes when moving from sitting to standing up, drowsiness, weight gain, and sexual dysfunctions. Other possible side effects include liver damage, convulsions, schizophrenia, and coma.

When taking a MAOI, the patient must not eat foods containing tyramine including cheeses, beer, wine, coffee, yogurt, and chocolate. If restricted foods are eaten while taking a MAOI, headaches, insomnia, constipation, fatigue, restlessness, blurred vision, confusion, and severe high blood pressure can result. At times this can cause strokes. This reaction can also happen if certain drugs--including nasal decongestants, cold remedies, allergy medications, beta blockers, and SSRIs--are taken along with an MAOI.

The tricyclics may cause cardiac problems, blood pressure changes when moving from a sitting to a standing position, drowsiness, dry mouth, sweating, blurred vision, weight gain, constipation, sexual dysfunctions, and possibly seizures.

Mood stabilizers can result in drowsiness, weight gain, nausea, diarrhea, and blurred vision. If the level of some mood stabilizers gets too high, damage to the nervous system, heart, and kidneys can occur.

The medications frequently do not work, only help partially, or only work for a short period of time. Dr. Gabriel Cousens, in his very informative and helpful book, Depression-Free For Life: An All-Natural, 5-Step Plan to Reclaim Your Zest for Living, writes, "Drug-based therapy remains, however, a flawed and one-dimensional approach that often fails to provide the long-term solution depressed people need and deserve." (p. 22)

When a medication for depression is not as affective as desired, the doctor often prescribes another medication. At times a patient will end up taking several different medications for depression at the same time.

Additional medications may also be prescribed for the side effects. Dr. Cousens writes, "Researchers have conducted very few studies on the risks and benefits of using multiple antidepressants and other drugs at the same time. In my experience, I've noticed that as a general rule, the more drugs you take, the more varied and worrisome become the side effects." (p. 40)

Is there a better way?

Many believe that there is a better way. However, it is not easy to manage depression--with or without the help of a medication for depression.

Depression is a complex disorder. It has many different aspects which involve both the mind and body. To effectively cope with clinical depressions, you must use a comprehensive approach. Such an approach needs to include a healthy diet (which may include supplements such as vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, and herbs), exercise, psychotherapy, life style and behavior changes, spiritual activities, supportive relationships, developing coping skills, and developing stress management skills.

A medication for depression can be helpful. At times medication may be necessary. Nevertheless, drugs should be used cautiously. Care should be taken to make sure the medication for depression is not being used in too high a dose or being continued for too long a period. The medication for depression should only be used along with other ways of treating depression.

The How to Transform Your Life E-Workshop can help you develop a more healthy, satisfying life, with or with out medication for depression. Through the E-Workshop you will learn how to establish goals which are meaningful and worthwhile--goals that address your dissatisfactions. You will also learn how to use resources to help you move toward your goals, resources which can give you needed information and provide you with support. You will gain skills in forming a plan for reaching your goals and in implementing the plan.

The E-Workshop will help you learn the skills which you need to best cope with your depression.

To learn more about the E-Workshop, click here.

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