View Full Version : DWD MH Factsheet #6 - Antidepressants

14-10-19, 09:41 PM
At DWD we cannot and will never try to replace a qualified medical team. We are not medically trained. The information contained within this factsheet is based on literature from reputable sources (e.g. national and international health services, established national and international charities etc) along with experience gained from our own lives as theyíve been affected by mental health problems.

Antidepressants (ADs) are mainly used to treat clinical depression. However, they can also be used to treat other mental health conditions such as anxiety, panic disorders, phobias, PTSD and eating disorders. Certain types of ADs called tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) have also been found to be helpful in treating chronic (long term) pain.

ADs are not normally prescribed to treat mild depression, unless the patient has been unwell for a prolonged period of time (dysthymia). Normally psychological therapy is recommended for mild depression. However, ADs can be helpful for people with moderate to severe depression. The Royal College of Psychiatrists Ďestimates that 50 to 65% of people treated with an antidepressant for depression will see an improvement, compared to 25 to 30% of those taking a placebo.í Itís usually recommended that psychological therapy is used in addition with ADs.

How do they work?

Itís not known exactly how ADs work but itís believed they boost chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and noradrenaline) which are thought to regulate mood. There are several different groups of ADs that work on the same chemicals but in different ways, which means they may have different side effects on different people. The groups are:

selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
tricyclics and tricyclic-related drugs (TCAs)
monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
and others

ADs will often take c4-8 weeks to start making a difference but each AD/group wonít suit everyone so it is important to keep in regular contact with your doctor. The starting dose is normally low and would be gradually raised until you start to see some benefits. If you donít start seeing some benefits, or youíre struggling with side effects, then contact your doctor to discuss alternatives, eg different ADs, as something else may suit you better.

Side effects & withdrawal

Itís vital to remember that, though ADs may cause side effects, that is not always the case and normally most side effects will decrease over time. Also, different ADs may suit you better and cause less, or more tolerable, side effects. Side effects can include: drowsiness; insomnia; headaches; nausea; stomach issues; low sex drive etc. For more information, talk to your doctor and go to www.nhs.uk

ADs are not addictive but your brain and body will get used to them if youíre taking them for a prolonged period of time. Reducing and stopping ADs, therefore, will cause withdrawal symptoms - more accurately known as discontinuation symptoms. It is always advisable to reduce the dose slowly and with your doctorís support.


If ADs arenít for you, there are alternatives, some of which can also be used together with ADs. These include: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT); Psychotherapy; Counselling; St Johnís Wort (herbal treatment). Changes to lifestyle and diet can also have a positive impact as can getting involved with a community that can support you, such as www.dealingwithdepression.co.uk.

Accepting that you may need to take ADs can be hard but your decision does need to be weighed up against the risks of not treating your illness effectively with alternative treatments, or the effects of not treating your illness at all.


Dealing with Depression (DWD) - Helplines etc

NHS - Antidepressants

Mind - Antidepressants

14-10-19, 10:18 PM
Thank you Paula, really brilliantly put together again. x