Roughly 3 million people in the U.S. struggle with depression. While many people think of the condition as just a very long case of “the blues,” it is much more serious than that.
According to the American Psychological Association, over 12 percent of Americans above the age of 12 have taken antidepressants within the past year. There has also been an upward trend in the number of Americans who take antidepressants, particularly among older adults. Younger people are also increasingly taking more antidepressants.
Despite the fact that millions of people are prescribed antidepressant medications, many people report that they become just as or more depressed while taking the drugs that are intended to relieve their depression. Is it possible to become more depressed if you take antidepressants? Learn more about antidepressants and how they work.
What Are Antidepressants?
SSRI drugs, short for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are frequently prescribed to treat depression and anxiety disorders. In general, this type of medication is useful for moderate to severe depression. It is associated with fewer symptoms than other prescription medications. SSRIs influence a process in the brain called reuptake.
When reuptake is blocked, chemicals can build up in the brain. The brain reuptakes excess chemicals from its nervous system by removing them from an active role. In the brain, serotonin is a natural neurotransmitter with many functions, including reducing anxiety and depression. By blocking serotonin reuptake, SSRIs and SNRIs improve mood by raising serotonin levels.
Antidepressant use is limited to prescription drugs; you must consult a doctor before taking them.
Antidepressants and Their Effects
In addition to treating depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), social anxiety disorder, and anxiety disorders, antidepressants may relieve other ailments. Several research studies have suggested that antidepressants are effective because they affect specific brain circuits and chemicals that pass signals from nerve cells to nerve cells. Three brain chemicals, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, all work differently when treated with antidepressants.
Antidepressants can be prescribed in various forms, including the following:
It is common to prescribe serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors for major depression, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, menopausal symptoms, fibromyalgia, chronic neuropathic pain as well as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety disorders.
A few widely known SNRIs include Cymbalta, Effexor, and Pristiq. These drugs increase serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, which helps with mood stability.
Antidepressants that selectively inhibit serotonin reuptake are the most common form of treatment for depression. They work well for most people and produce fewer adverse reactions than SNRIs.
It is believed that SSRIs benefit mood stability by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin. This aids in the communication between brain cells, resulting in a better and more stable mood.
A second class of reuptake inhibitors is norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is the only medication prescribed. By blocking specific transporter proteins, bupropion increases the brain’s ability to reuptake norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitters. For the majority of people, bupropion works well.
Other drugs that treat depression and anxiety disorders other than those mentioned above, such as benzodiazepines, serotonin antagonist reuptake inhibitors (SARIs), and others, are less prescribed. These can sometimes produce unpleasant side effects and can be addictive.
Reasons Why Antidepressants May Stop Working
In a Mayo Clinic article, Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D., provides an explanation for why antidepressants may stop working: “However, in some people, a particular antidepressant may simply stop working over time. Doctors don’t fully understand what causes the so-called ‘poop-out’ effect or antidepressant tolerance — known as tachyphylaxis — or why it occurs in some people and not in others.”
In addition to these reasons, antidepressants can stop working for other reasons as well:
Breakthrough depression. It is called breakthrough depression when the depression becomes worse, and its symptoms occur without apparent cause. The medication that the individual is currently taking may not be able to prevent the symptoms when the depression worsens.
Various medical conditions. Major medical conditions, such as cancer, can worsen depression as well. Hypothyroidism, for example, can cause or worsen depression.
Other medication. There are drugs that can change how the body uses and metabolizes antidepressants, causing the drugs to change how they work.
Age. The pathology of depression may worsen as someone ages. Older people may find that their brains and thinking process change.
Taking the medication continuously can cause tolerance to it, which can lead to a reduced response to the medication, which occurs when the body adapts to the constant presence of the medication.
An antidepressant used for a long time may stop working, and depression symptoms may worsen. A medical professional should be consulted at this time, and an adjustment may be required to relieve depression symptoms.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a serious illness characterized by severe symptoms that affect your feelings, thoughts, and daily activities, including sleeping, eating, and working. The National Institute of Mental Health describes it as “a common but serious mood disorder.”
Low moods are the result of depression, a mood disorder that can impair your social and occupational functioning and lower your quality of life. It can cause a person to shut down, which can make living a normal life more difficult. Depression is a mental health disorder that causes a person to shut down.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that there are 300 million people worldwide suffering from depression. More than 16 million Americans are affected by depression, which is one of the main causes of disability among people aged 15 to 44.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression are formal names for the condition. It can affect your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors on a daily basis. It is possible to diagnose depression if you experience depressive symptoms for more than two weeks, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
A diagnosis of depression may be indicated by the following signs and symptoms:
- Sadness that lingers for days or weeks
- Loss of interest in almost all daily activities
- Appetite changes
- Loss of energy
- Fatigue and hypersomnia
- Agitation and irritability
- Slow movements and speech
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Guilt and shame
- Feeling foggy-headed and unable to think clearly
- Suicidal thoughts or action
- Thoughts about death and dying
It is possible that you will have trouble sleeping, eating, or maintaining energy levels. It is also possible that your performance at school or work will suffer. When your mental health affects your relationships, finances, career, or other responsibilities, it is a clear sign that you have a mental health disorder.
Symptoms of Depression
A person with depression may experience symptoms for the majority of the day on nearly every day of the week for two weeks before a diagnosis can be made.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- No interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Aches, pains, cramps, or digestive problems with no clear physical cause that cannot be resolved with treatment
- Suicide attempts or suicide ideation
There are millions of people suffering from depression in the United States and worldwide. As long-term treatments, antidepressants can be helpful in reducing symptoms of depression, but they can also have undesirable side effects. Depression is not uncommon to continue for a long time after taking antidepressants.
A prescription adjustment may be necessary if you or a loved one believe their antidepressant is causing them more depression. Talk to the prescribing doctor or medical professional about the adjustment.