Christian LifeSkills
For Personal & Spiritual Growth


 Three groups of antidepressant medications are most often used to treat depressive disorders: tricyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and lithium. Lithium is the treatment of choice for bipolar disorder and some forms of recurring, major depression. Sometimes your doctor will try a variety of antidepressants before finding the medication or combination of medications most effective for you. Sometimes the dosage must be increased to be effective. Also, new types of antidepressants are being developed all the time, and one of these may be the best for you.

There are now two new classes of antidepressants which are neither tricyclics nor MAOIs, and which generally lack the side effects associated with these two traditional classes of drugs. The first of these is fluoxetine, a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor; the other is bupropion, believed to act on the dopaminergic system.

Patients often are tempted to stop medication too soon. It is important to keep taking medication until your doctor says to stop, even if you feel better beforehand. Some medications must be stopped gradually to give your body time to adjust. For individuals with bipolar disorder or chronic major depression, medication may have to become part of everyday life to avoid disabling symptoms.

Antidepressant drugs are not habit-forming, so you need not be concerned about that. However, as is the case with any type of medication prescribed for more than a few days, antidepressants have to be carefully monitored to see if you are getting the correct dosage. Your doctor will want to check the dosage and its effectiveness regularly.

If you are taking MAO inhibitors, you will have to avoid certain foods, such as cheeses, wines, and pickles. Be sure you get a complete list of foods you should not eat from your doctor and always carry it with you. Other forms of antidepressants require no food restrictions.

Never mix medications of any kind--prescribed, over-the counter, or borrowed--without consulting your doctor. Be sure to tell your dentist or any other medical specialist who prescribes a drug that you are taking antidepressants. Some of the most benign drugs when taken alone can cause severe and dangerous side effects if taken with others. Some drugs, like alcohol, reduce the effectiveness of antidepressants and should be avoided. This includes wine, beer, and hard liquor.

Antianxiety drugs or sedatives are not antidepressants. They are sometimes prescribed along with antidepressants; however, they should not be taken alone for a depressive disorder. Sleeping pills and stimulants, such as amphetamines, are also inappropriate.

Be sure to call your doctor if you have a question about any drug or if you are having a problem you believe is drug related.



 Antidepressants may cause mid and, usually, temporary side effects in some people. Typically these are annoying, but not serious. However, unusual side effects or those that interfere with functioning should be reported to your doctor. The most common side effects, and ways to deal with them, are:

         Dry mouth--drink lots of water; chew sugarless gum; clean teeth daily.

         Constipation--eat bran cereals, prunes, fruit, and vegetables.

         Bladder problems--emptying your bladder may be troublesome, and your urine stream may not be as strong as usual; call your doctor if there is any pain.

         Sexual problems--sexual functioning may change; if worrisome, discuss with your doctor.

         Blurred vision--this will pass soon; do not get new glasses.

         Dizziness--rise from bed or chair slowly.

         Drowsiness--this will pass soon; do not drive or operate heavy equipment if feeling drowsy or sedated.

The newer antidepressants have different types of side effects:

         Headache--this will usually go away.

         Nausea--even when it occurs, it is transient after each dose.

         Nervousness and insomnia--these may occur during the first few weeks; dosage reductions or time will usually resolve them.

         Agitation--if this happens for the first time after the drug is taken and is more than transient, consult your doctor.


Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Return to Plain Talk about Depression