Can You Still Be Depressed on Antidepressants?

Can You Still Be Depressed on Antidepressants?

Author: GIA Miami
Published: August 16, 2022

You might think that you are depressed if you are in a low mood, feeling "blue", or feeling sad. However, a medical diagnosis of depression must involve having depressive symptoms for over two weeks. If a doctor has diagnosed you with depression, then do not worry - there is treatment available.

You might think that a doctor only prescribes antidepressant drugs to treat depression. While that is somewhat true, it is not the only mental illness that antidepressants are able to treat. Antidepressants can also treat other general and mental health conditions, including:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Sleeping problems

If you worry that you, or someone you know, might be suffering from depression, then below is all the information you will need to make an informed decision in treating it.

What Is Depression?

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that affects how you feel, think, and carry out day-to-day tasks and activities. Someone who is feeling depressed may describe their depressive symptoms as a gray cloud that hangs over everything they do all the time. It is a common but serious condition which, unfortunately on some occasions, can lead to a loss of life.

There are other similar disorders that sometimes get conflated with depression, such as bipolar disorder. Your doctor may have referred to this as manic depression in the past.

People who have bipolar disorder are not constantly depressed, which is what those with major depressive disorder mostly experience. With bipolar disorder, individuals will experience extreme mood swings that include intense emotional highs and lows.

It is important to recognize the difference between the two disorders. This is because antidepressant medication can actually make bipolar disorder worse, or even trigger manic episodes. If you suspect that you might have either depression or bipolar disorder, then speak to a medical professional. They will be able to guide you to find the right treatment for your condition.

If you are unsure as to whether you are experiencing depression, bipolar disorder, or just a low mood, then understanding depression symptoms might help guide you in understanding your mood problems.

Depression Symptoms

Depression symptoms can vary from person to person. However, there is a general understanding as to what constitutes depression.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), some of the symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling persistently sad, anxious, or hopeless
  • Feelings of irritability
  • Feelings of guilt and low self esteem
  • No longer enjoying hobbies and activities of interest
  • Less energy and possibly fatigue
  • Concentration and memory issues
  • Difficulty with sleep, either waking up too early or sleeping in too late
  • Either an increased or decreased appetite, accompanied by possible weight gain or loss
  • Thoughts about dying or suicide
  • General aches and pains, including moderate headache, cramping, problems with digestion

Evidently, depression symptoms can be worrying and dangerous to someone who is experiencing them. It can be equally daunting for those who love and care for them. Therefore, if you think you might be depressed, we encourage you to seek medical advice about treating your depression symptoms.

As mentioned earlier, depression is a very common mental health condition. This means that it has been the focus of extensive research. Therefore, health professionals have uncovered many ways of combating it. It doesn't matter who you are, or how badly you feel, everyone is worthy of - and can find - treatment that works for them.

Treating depression, for you, might involve the use of depression medications or psychotherapy. Whatever suits you, there is a wider array of different treatments available. Below, we delve into the role of antidepressants in depression treatment.

How Do Antidepressant Medications Work?

Someone using an antidepressant might not experience a complete resolution of their depression, but they will often experience a reduction in symptoms. There are many different types of depression treatment medications that generally have the same effect. Therefore, if the first one you try doesn't work for you, then you might need to try other medications.

Most antidepressants affect brain chemistry, and treat the symptoms of depression by acting on brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These "brain chemicals," mainly serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, affect the communication between brain cells.

Different forms of antidepressant medications affect different neurotransmitters. Some of these antidepressant medications include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Levels (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Atypical antidepressants
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Of these, the most often prescribed medication used to combat depression are SSRIs.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

This type of antidepressant (SSRI) works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. When low levels of serotonin in the brain is thought to be the cause of depression, a doctor might prescribe an SSRI. This medication stops serotonin from being reabsorbed in the brain, meaning that more of it is available.

Research, using a placebo (placebo meaning an inactive "sugar pill"), compared results of SSRIs to an inactive substance. What they found was that the increased availability of serotonin that SSRIs produce brings relief of depressive symptoms in individuals suffering with depression.

Some of the most common SSRIs and their brand names include:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil or Pexeva)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Generally, when compared to other drugs involved in treating depression, SSRI medications don't cause as many troubling side effects. That being said, those who take an SSRI medication should be aware of any possible side effects that they may experience before they start using the medication.

Side Effects

Most, if not all antidepressants, risk causing some unwanted side effects. These side effects, more often than not, disappear or at least improve after a few weeks of treatment.

Some of these side effects may include:

  • Feeling agitated, irritable, or anxious
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Indigestion and stomach aches
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep problems - including insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Sexual dysfunction - including difficulties achieving an orgasm during sex or masturbation, and obtaining or maintaining an erection

When considering taking antidepressants, it is important to weigh up the side effects with the possible benefits that a reduction in your depressive symptoms might bring. If these side effects are too much, your doctor might suggest reducing your dose. Equally, if you haven't found any relief from your depression, they might decide to increase your dose. Whatever your dosage, there will be a right fit for you.

How Long Do I Need To Take Antidepressants For?

Generally, treatment will start out with the aim of ending antidepressant use after six months. This is not always the case however, and you should follow your doctor's instructions at all times. If you stop taking your antidepressants without the advice of a doctor, you may experience unpleasant side effects.

Sometimes, an individual who is experiencing a relief from their depressive symptoms and anxiety due to treatment might find that their antidepressants stop working, and their depression or anxiety returns.

Breakthrough Depression

Called breakthrough depression, this is when someone's depressive symptoms come back even after benefitting from treatment. Some studies suggest that the reason that breakthrough depression occurs is due to the build up of a drug tolerance. However, a 2014 study, published in the National Library of Medicine, suggests that an antidepressant drug tolerance cannot cause such a phenomenon.

Knowing this, it is possible that your medication might stop working. If this is the case, then there is no sure fire way of relieving an individual's chronic depression again, but the use of any other antidepressant drug is possible.

It could also be that an antidepressant drug or medication simply does not work for you. This could be where we at GIA Miami could help.

Getting Treatment

At GIA Miami, we know that the antidepressant path doesn't work for everyone. That is why we offer a wide array of different therapies. Instead of only using antidepressants to combat depression, we use different forms of medication free therapy to keep you in a mentally healthy place.

Whether it is depression that is affecting your day-to-day life, or any other health conditions - such as anxiety, OCD, or addiction - you don't have continue suffering.

Call us today on 561 462 4099 or contact us here to begin the first step towards getting your life back.

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