Treatments for Depression
Treatment for depression can involve a variety of different approaches, and often people find that a combination of these work best. For more information about self-help options such as attending a self-help group, making changes to your diet or relaxation techniques please contact Depression Alliance to ask for an information leaflet.
When talking to your doctor about the most appropriate treatment for you, it’s often useful to have a basic understanding of the options.
Antidepressants work by normalising the activity levels of brain chemicals which affect our mood. Current medical advice is that antidepressants are not addictive. There are several different types of antidepressant treatment available. Following is a general overview:
Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
First available in the 1950s, TCAs are still commonly used to treat depression. They take up to about two weeks to work. Some tricyclic antidepressants are also sedatives – so if you feel anxious and agitated you may be prescribed these. If you feel tired however then you will probably be prescribed a non-sedative type. Some patients experience troublesome side effects with tricyclics.
Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Introduced in the 1980s, SSRIs are the other major type of antidepressant. They tend to cause less side effects, and are less sedative than other types. Many patients find SSRIs easier to take than other types of antidepressant.
Monamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
MAOIs are generally used in patients who have not responded to other treatments. They are not often used as a first line treatment due to the special diet patients are required to follow whilst taking them.
Reversible Inhibitors of Monoamine Oxidase (RIMAs)
RIMAs are a similar antidepressant drug treatment to MAOIs. They are usually prescribed in higher doses for those patients who have not responded to other treatments.
There are also a number of other antidepressants that don’t ‘belong’ to these four main classes.
Most side effects from antidepressant drugs usually cease after about three weeks. Please don’t stop taking the medication or changing your dosage without talking to your doctor first. Remember, there are a wide variety of different antidepressant medications available. Your GP will be able to prescribe you a different antidepressant if you are experiencing unpleasant side effects. Finally, remember not to give up on your medication too soon! It may take up to six weeks to work properly. Sleeping problems and feelings of tiredness are usually the first symptoms to improve, the depressed mood may take a little longer to lift.
It is important that you talk to your GP before stopping or changing your medication in any way. Remember that even when you feel better, your doctor may ask you to continue taking your medication for a while – this is just to make sure that the depression does not return.