Depression is a serious mental illness that affects approximately 300 people all over the world.
When it comes to managing depression, there’s not one solution that works for all people. Even if the solution for you is an antidepressant medication, there are still a variety of antidepressants out there that you can choose from.
The process of finding the right antidepressant can be time-consuming and frustrating.
If you’re currently struggling with depression and need help finding the right antidepressant for your needs, keep reading to learn more about the different options available to you. You’ll also learn everything you ever needed to know about dosing, managing side effects, and seeing the greatest benefits from your antidepressants.
Types of Antidepressants
There are several different types of antidepressants that your doctor may prescribe you. Some of the most common ones include:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
These work by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin and making it more available in the brain.
Common SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil and Pexeva), escitalopram (Lexapro), and citalopram (Celexa).
Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors
SNRIs block the reuptake of serotonin and another chemical called norepinephrine, which is responsible for alertness and energy.
Some of the most common SNRIs are duloxetine (Cymbalta), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedezla), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), and levomilnacipran (Fetzima).
Tricyclic antidepressants are often prescribed when SSRIs and SNRIs are not effective. These antidepressants work by increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine and also blocking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Common tricyclic antidepressants are nortriptyline (Pamelor), imipramine (Tofranil), and amitriptyline, doxepin and desipramine (Norpramin).
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors come with more serious side effects. Their use also must be accompanied by a strict diet to avoid undesirable interactions.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors work by inhibiting an enzyme known as monoamine oxidase. This enzyme is responsible for removing norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine from the brain.
Some antidepressants do not fit neatly into one category. These antidepressants are known as atypical antidepressants.
Some of the most common atypical antidepressants are trazodone, mirtazapine (Remeron), vilazodone (Viibryd), bupropion (Wellbutrin, Aplenzin, Forfivo XL), and vortioxetine (Trintellix).
How to Choose the Right Antidepressant
With so many different types of antidepressants out there, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. Unfortunately, it’s also rare to find the right antidepressant on your first try.
But, you can minimize the uncertainty that surrounds the process of choosing an antidepressant by communicating with your doctor about some of the different factors that go into their decision.
- Your symptoms — if your depression causes insomnia, you may need a different antidepressant than someone whose depression makes them feel lethargic.
- How a certain antidepressant worked for a family member — if a close family member (e.g., a parent or sibling) had positive results from a particular antidepressant, you may have similar luck.
- Other medications you’re taking — some antidepressants, especially monoamine oxidase inhibitors, can interact negatively with other drugs.
- If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding — some antidepressants like Paxil and Pexeva are discouraged during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects and other issues.
- Other health conditions — some antidepressants can serve a dual purpose and minimize the symptoms of other conditions. For example, Cymbalta can be used to manage chronic pain symptoms, and Wellbutrin can relieve symptoms associated with ADHD.
- Cost — of course, you need to be able to afford your antidepressants. Some antidepressants are very expensive, so you may need to figure out whether or not a generic version of a particular drug is available and if your insurance will cover the cost of it.
How to Find the Right Dose
Finding the right dose is another hurdle that many people face when it comes to choosing the right antidepressant. Make sure you keep these tips in mind as you work with your doctor to figure out how much of a particular drug you should be taking.
- Start with the lowest dose possible — remember, it’s easier to increase your dose than it is to cut it down.
- Increase the dosage gradually every few weeks
- Account for physiological adjustments — side effects are common and, if they don’t impair your daily functioning, it’s best to simply give your body some time to adjust to them
- Take notes in a journal regularly to monitor the way you’re reacting to your antidepressants — common signs that you’re taking too much of an antidepressant include lethargy, nausea, mental confusion, and agitation.
How to See the Greatest Results from Your Antidepressants
In addition to monitoring your symptoms and measuring how your body reacts to your antidepressants, these additional tips can help you see the best results from your prescription:
- Take your antidepressants (at the correct dose) consistently for several weeks before deeming them ineffective
- Be willing to make a change if a specific antidepressant doesn’t seem to be working
- Don’t stop taking antidepressants without first talking to your doctor — this can lead to withdrawal symptoms and make your depression worse
- Avoid mixing antidepressants with recreational drugs and alcohol
Perhaps the most important thing to do when you’re going through the process of finding the right antidepressant is to be patient.
It’s a process, and it can take a long time to figure out which type and dosage of antidepressant is the most effective for you.
If you’re patient in keep these tips in mind, though, you’ll have an easier time finding relief from your depression.