Frequently Asked Questions
10. What types of medication are used to treat depression?
Medications called antidepressants work to control natural brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which get out of balance when a person is depressed. Scientists studying depression have found that these chemicals are involved in regulating mood.
The newest and most popular types of antidepressant medications are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They include fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa) and several others. Similar to SSRIs are serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and include venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta). Another newer antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin) is neither an SSRI nor an SNRI but is popular as well. Older antidepressants, called tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), are still used sometimes, too.
SSRIs and SNRIs are more popular than the older classes of antidepressants because they tend to have fewer side effects. However, medications affect everyone differently so talk with your doctor to decide which type is best for you.
People taking MAOIs must follow strict food and medicine restrictions to avoid potentially serious interactions. If you take an MAOI, your doctor should give you a complete list of foods, medicines, and substances to avoid.
MAOIs can also react with SSRIs to produce a serious condition called "serotonin syndrome," which can cause confusion, hallucinations, increased sweating, muscle stiffness, seizures, changes in blood pressure or heart rhythm, and other potentially life threatening conditions. MAOIs should not be taken with SSRIs.