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Depression Health Center

Facts About Antidepressants

A new study says some antidepressants are mostly ineffective, but many previous studies show the opposite.
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Why wouldn’t an antidepressant work?

According to Fieve, sometimes the doctor chooses the wrong antidepressant, or the right antidepressant in the wrong dosage, or does not administer the antidepressant for at least six weeks at the highest dose tolerable to achieve full therapeutic results.

In addition, if the depressed patient has problems with alcohol or drug abuse and takes an antidepressant, the medication isn't getting at the real problem. There are also patients who are heavily medicated on tranquilizers who wonder why an antidepressant doesn't work to ease their depression. Coming off the tranquilizers may improve mood, Fieve says.

Can alternative treatments help in treating depression?

For minor depression (dysthymia), Fieve says that exercising regularly, reducing stress, and improving sleep can help patients relax and feel better.

But what about those with major depressive disorder? "Medications are necessary," Fieve says. "Psychotherapy is also a useful adjunct in combination with medications."

What about teens and antidepressants?

The latest findings published in The Journal of the American Medical Association show that depressed teens who don't respond well to the first  prescribed antidepressant medication begin to improve if they are switched to a different antidepressant medication and also offered "talk" therapy.

The combination -- switching medications and offering talk therapy -- works better than simply changing medications, the researchers found, although switching medications alone also offers improvement.

What are the common signs of depression?

Symptoms of depression vary per person but may include depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, diminished interest or pleasure in activities, weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleep, fatigue or loss of energy, impaired concentration, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt, among others.

Teens and children with depression may experience apathy, social withdrawal, weight loss, insomnia, fatigue, isolation from family and friends, a drop in school performance, and even drug or alcohol abuse.

Fieve said there are standard guidelines for diagnosing and treating a host of mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), bipolar depression, and others published in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition – the DSM-IV.

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