Are you concerned about depression? Do you wonder how doctors are able to make an accurate depression diagnosis?
It used to be that all mood disorders were lumped together. Now, however, a doctor will make a distinction regarding the particular disorder a patient has. For example, a doctor will determine whether a patient has major depression, dysthymia or mild, chronic depression, seasonal affective disorder or SAD, bipolar disorder (manic depression), or some other type of clinical depression...
However, questions remain on the safety of antidepressant medications in children and adolescents. In October 2004, the FDA directed the manufacturers of all antidepressant drugs to revise the labeling of their products to include a boxed warning alerting consumers to an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents being treated with these drugs. This risk has not been shown for adults over age 24.
How Does Your Doctor Select Which Antidepressant to Administer?
Your mental health professional chooses which antidepressant medicine to give you based on your symptoms, the presence of other medical conditions, what other medicines you are taking, cost of the prescribed treatments, and potential side effects. If you have had depression before, your doctor will usually prescribe the same medicine you responded to in the past. If you have a family history of depression, medicines that have been effective in treating your family member(s) will be considered.
Usually you will start taking the medicine at a low dose. The dose will be gradually increased until you start to see an improvement (unless side effects emerge).
How Long Will I Have to Take Antidepressants?
In order to be effective and prevent depression from recurring, antidepressant medicines are generally prescribed for six month to one year for people who are being treated for first-time depression. Usually, these drugs must be taken regularly for at least one to two months before their full benefit takes effect. You are usually monitored closely during this time to detect the development of side effects and to determine the effectiveness of treatment.
When you and your doctor determine that you are better, your doctor may gradually taper you off your medicines. Once you and your doctor have determined it is safe for you to stop taking your medicine altogether, you should continue to be monitored during periodic follow-up appointments (about every three months) to detect any signs of depression recurrence.
You should never discontinue any medication without talking to your doctor about it first.
Long-term treatment with depression medicine may be recommended to prevent further episodes of depression in people who have already suffered from two or more episodes of major depression.
Are Antidepressants Safe?
As with all medications, antidepressants can have side effects. The side effects vary depending on the type of antidepressant you take. Possible side effects include insomnia, sleepiness, nausea, weight changes, and sexual problems. If you're taking an antidepressant, ask your doctor if there are any particular side effects you should know about.
In October 2004, the FDA directed the manufacturers of all antidepressant drugs to put a strong warning on antidepressant drug labels. The "black box" warning says that antidepressants have been shown to increase suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents and should be used with caution.