Antidepressants are medications used for the treatment of moderate to severe depression. They are also prescribed in many psychological conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), bulimia nervosa, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some antidepressants may also be used to relieve symptoms of menopause.
Depression affects the level of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine). And antidepressants work by increasing the levels of these chemicals to improve mood and emotions in depressed individuals. They do not cure depression because they do not address the cause of depression. But they can significantly reduce the symptoms of severe depression. Antidepressants also act on the nerves that receive pain signals hence may help to relieve prolonged pain in depressed people.
There are different types of antidepressants such as serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclic antidepressants. Each type of antidepressant acts on influencing the levels of one or more neurotansmitters. They are generally prescribed in combination with additional therapy (cognitive behavioural therapy or meditation) to reduce stress. Common side-effects of antidepressants include drowsiness, nausea, insomnia, constipation and dizziness. Prolonged use of antidepressants can have negative health impact.