Depression is an illness, just like heart disease or diabetes. And like any other illness, it can be treated with either depression medicines or therapy, or a combination of the two. For purposes of this article, the focus shall be on the former, which are depression medicines.
There are several types of depression medicines used to treat depression and other conditions that have depression as a component of the disease, such as bipolar disorder. These depression medicines are collectively known as “antidepressants” and they work mainly by increasing the availability of certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals produced by the brain.
Since these neurotransmitters play an important role in the balance of emotions, increasing their production through the introduction of depression medicines can help improve the symptoms of the condition.
Major Types of Depression Medicines
Depression medicines are categorized into the following major types:
* Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) – Depression medicines belonging under this category are among the first antidepressants used to treat depression. Basically, the drugs primarily affect two important neurotransmitters of the brain – norepinephrine and serotonin. Although very effective in treating the symptoms of depression, the use of these drugs are restricted because of known side effects.
* Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) – Another early form of antidepressant, these depression medicines are most effective in people with depression who do not respond to other treatments. Additionally, these drugs are also effective for other mental illnesses. As for side effects, MAOIs are known to react to substances found in certain foods, such as cheese, beverages like wine, and other medications.
* Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – These depression medicines are a newer form of antidepressants. From its name, one can readily ascertain that the drug acts on the levels of serotonin produced by the brain. However, unlike TCAs, SSRIs work by selectively altering the amount of serotonin in the brain, leaving the levels of the other neurotransmitters as is.
* Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) – Another newer form of antidepressant, SNRIs treat depression by increasing availability of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine.
Some Important Things to Note
Because of its tendency to react to certain substances, when taking an MAOI, you must be careful to inform your doctor before taking any other medications. Avoid taking medications like Sudafed, an over-the-counter medicine, with MAOIs. Also, avoid eating certain foods like aged cheese, wine and beer, avocados, bananas, canned meats, yogurt, soy sauce, packaged soups and sour cream. These foods, as previously mentioned, contain substances that may trigger a reaction if taken with an MAOI.
In October of 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an advisory informing that depression medicines may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders.