Womens Health

How Antidepressants Work

How Did I Get Here?

There are myriad things which can trigger depression.  Normal feelings of sadness at the death of a loved one, deep loss over the breakup of a marriage, even environmental changes can be triggers.  Having a baby, as wonderful as it is, can leave a woman in a downward spiral as she tries to cope with the changes to her environment and body.  Loneliness, financial stresses, and countless other intensely emotional experiences have the potential to tip the scales into depression.  Not everyone who goes through tough trials develops depression.  Those who find themselves in such a state can and should seek professional help.  Most frequently physicians can very quickly diagnose and prescribe treatment to help an individual suffering from depression.  There are many different types of medications available today to treat this common illness and depending upon the severity of the situation, the physician will prescribe the medication he/she feels is best suited to the person's individual needs.

A Little Bit of Science...

The functions of the brain, muscles, nerves and organs are all regulated by chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.  The more commonly known NTs (neurotransmitters) are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine.  Today's lifestyle, environment, and dietary habits have left many people with low levels of these neurotransmitters leaving them open to several different types of disorders.  Some of these conditions are insomnia, ADHD, obesity, anxiety and depression.  In order to combat these illnesses, an increase in the availability of NTs is important since NTs are not only essential for the normal function of the brain, they are also necessary to control mood, eating, sleeping and thinking.

What Do Antidepressants Do?

It is believed that most antidepressants work by slowing down the loss of the chemical neurotransmitters, making them more available to the brain.  The symptoms of depression are relieved when the chemical balance is restored.  As a result there is a reduction in the symptoms of sadness, helplessness and hopelessness as well as many of the other feelings associated with depression.  Antidepressants are also used to treat conditions other than depression, such as chronic pain, eating disorders, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), bipolar disorder and others.

Types of Antidepressants

There are different types of antidepressants and they are effective, but there are specific types of drugs which work best for specific types of depression.  The medical professional will be able to diagnose which type of depression is presented and which type of antidepressant would be best to treat it.  The basic types of antidepressants are SSRIs - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors which affect only the neurotransmitter serotonin.  Tricyclic antidepressants and MAO inhibitors affect not only serotonin, but also norepinephrine.  They may also interface with different chemicals in the body.  Antidepressants can have an effect on other medications.  It is important to advise the health care professional of any medications, including OTCs and herbal preparations being taken, to ensure there is no conflict and possible negative reactions to the mixture of medicines.

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