Antidepressants are one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in modern medicine. These drugs are highly effective, non-addictive, and relatively safe. Many people think that antidepressants make a depressed person happy; however, that is not how these drugs work. Antidepressants are prescribed mostly for those individuals with major depressive disorder but they are also prescribed for eating disorders and anxiety.

How antidepressants work is a bit complicated but here is a general overview. We all have certain neurotransmitters in our brains that have specific functions. There are three major neurotransmitters involved in depression including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Antidepressants work by increasing the amount of these neurotransmitters in the brain.

All antidepressants work the same but it is important to remember that these drugs do not elevate mood or take away the symptoms of sadness, loss of interest, decreased energy, lack of focus, or sleep disturbances often seen with depression.  What antidepressants do is to help your brain and these neurotransmitters work more effectively.

Treatment with antidepressant medication generally takes between three and six weeks for the effects to become known. The medication should be taken exactly as prescribed and it is important to remember that antidepressants do not work on an as-needed basis. If you are feeling sad, simply taking one antidepressant will not help you. The medication needs time to build up in your system before you will see the effects.

Antidepressants will not improve all symptoms of depression or anxiety; therefore, it is important to review your symptoms periodically with your doctor. There are some individuals that respond better to one antidepressant over another. Sometimes your doctor may determine that you need a different antidepressant and a different dosage. If you are taking antidepressants, remember to communicate any changes in how you feel with your doctor. Over time and with your doctor’s help, you can find the dose and type of antidepressant that works well for you.

Medications are only one method of treatment for depression or anxiety. Along with individual therapy, antidepressant medications show positive outcomes for those with depression or anxiety. One type of therapy that works well with depression and anxiety is cognitive-behavioral therapy. While your antidepressant medication is working to streamline the neurotransmitters in your brain, cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you to recognize and change the negative thoughts that are exacerbating your depressed or anxious symptoms.

Cottonwood Tucson offers a place of understanding, healing, and hope. Our residential treatment programs have gained international renown for an integrative approach to co-occurring disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling, know that treatment is available. Recovery is possible.

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