Medications for Depression
The most commonly prescribed medications for depression are referred to as antidepressants. Most experts agree that when depression is severe enough to impact your ability to function in life, medication can be helpful—even lifesaving.
While they take some time to work (about 4-6 weeks) and can be accompanied by some unpleasant side effects, antidepressant medications can help alleviate symptoms of depression so that you feel better and are better able to resume your normal functioning and work on other ways to recover from depression. Typically, medications are provided by your family doctor or a psychiatrist.
Understandably, some guys are reluctant to take antidepressant medications, but unfounded concerns can result in denying yourself a potentially useful treatment.
You’re worried about being prescribed a medication you don’t need.
Some guys are worried that their doctor will tell them to take some pills and not address underlying issues. In practice, doctors work with you to figure out the best options for treating whatever issue you come in with; medication may be one option but it shouldn’t be the only one you discuss.
You think antidepressants will affect your sexual performance.
Some antidepressants may have up to 37% of men experiencing erectile dysfunction, while others may have less of an impact. A doctor should be able to outline the potential risks of the antidepressant prescribed for you. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to mitigate risks, and have a plan to monitor and make changes if needed.
You think antidepressants will change who you are.
The goal of using antidepressants is to improve your ability to function and alleviate your symptoms, so that you feel more like yourself.
You know a particular medication didn’t work for a friend, so why try it.
Everyone reacts slightly differently to certain medications. It is often an informed trial and error process to find the right medication or combination that works best for you.
There are many different types of drugs used in the treatment of depression. This can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). While each class of drugs tends to have particular set of unique side effects, there are side effects that are common to most classes of drugs. These include: dry mouth, drowsiness, nausea, trouble sleeping, weight gain, and decreased or loss of sex drive.
UptoDate.com has a great overview of:
If you experience any side-effects, you should let your doctor know so that you can figure out the best way to manage them (another medication may work better, side-effects may fade in time, or another approach, like talk therapy, may be better suited for you). If the antidepressant is otherwise working well, another medication may be prescribed to alleviate specific side-effects.
Sometimes the possible side-effects you want to avoid can help narrow down which antidepressant to use. For example if you have issues with energy levels, it may be better to try one less associated with the risk of causing drowsiness.
Most antidepressants are generally safe, but government regulations require that all antidepressants carry black box warnings, the strictest warnings for prescriptions. In some cases, children, teenagers and young adults under 25 may have an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviour when taking antidepressants, especially in the first few weeks after starting or when the dose is changed.
Keep in mind that antidepressants are more likely to reduce suicide risk in the long run by improving mood.
Talk therapy – especially when coupled with other lifestyle changes – can work just as well or better than antidepressants—minus the side effects—but often depression can rob you of the energy and motivation to pursue these avenues.
Medication may be right for you if your symptoms are severe and are significantly interfering with your ability to function and you think it’s worth putting up with the side effects of antidepressants.
Antidepressants can take several weeks to take effect – and not everyone benefits from them. If possible, use that time to explore self-help strategies, such as exercise, that can provide a more immediate mood boost. Alternatively, once the medication takes effect and your energy levels improve, consider therapy and lifestyle changes that can help you get to the bottom of your underlying issues and develop the tools to beat depression for good. While drug treatment can be beneficial, it’s by no means the only answer.
- Courtet, P., & Lopez-Castroman, J. (2017). Antidepressants and suicide risk in depression. World Psychiatry, 16(3), 317- 318. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20460
- Bhanari, S. (2021, March 8). What are SSRIs? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/depression/ssris-myths-and-facts-about-antidepressants
- Francois, D., Levin, A., Kutscher, E., & Asemota, B. (2017). Antidepressant-induced sexual side effects: Incidence, assessment, clinical implications, and management. Psychiatric Annals, 47(3), 154-160. https://doi.org/10.3928/00485713-20170201-01
Medications and Depression
- Antidepressants Overview | HelpGuide [US]
- Types of Antidepressants and Side-effects | HelpGuide [US]
- Side-effects of SSRIs and Atypical Antidepressants | UptoDate.com [US]
- Side-effects of Older Generation Antidepressants | UptoDate.com [US]
- Medical Treatments for Depression | Beyond Blue [Australia]