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How Do Antidepressants Really Work?

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems of the current times. This is a problem that seems to have affected people of all ages including senior citizens, adolescents and children and both genders all across the world. Antidepressants are a category of one of the most common medicine groups to be used to treat the condition. There has been a lot of ambiguity regarding whether these antidepressants at all works or not and if they do work how do they happen to affect, improve and treat the condition of depression.(1) In the course of this discussion, we will take a look at how antidepressants work for the patients who have been prescribed this category of medicines for their problem of depression.

How Does Antidepressants Really Work?

Three types of antidepressants are mostly available in the market:(1)

  1. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) – These are traditional and first-generation antidepressants.
  2. Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – These are second-generation antidepressants.
  3. Selective Serotonin Noradrenaline Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) – These are second-generation antidepressants.

Antidepressants are one of the most common elements in the treatment plan for depression. They work by balancing the chemicals in our brain which are also known as neurotransmitters, which can affect our emotions and mood.(2) Hence these antidepressant medicines can help to elevate your mood, get better sleep and also increase your concentration and appetite. It has been seen that antidepressants can help you to jump-start your mood and provide patients with depression with a boost that is required to come out of their state of depression.(3) This helps patients with depression to start doing things that they like to do and to make the best choices for themselves by contributing to their own positive mood.

Discovery of the Antidepressants

The truth about antidepressants discovery is that it was done quite largely by some kind of an accident by the Swiss scientists who were looking for drugs to treat the problem of Schizophrenia in 1950. During their experiments, they realized that certain drugs lead to a state of euphoria among their patients.(4) As a result of which antidepressants were born, just like so many other drugs, which were born out of serendipity and luck. Antidepressants also were discovered on this strength. In fact, some have also argued that since these antidepressants increased the level of monoamine class of neurotransmitters, it is the depletion of this class that actually leads to depression. Although a part of the story can be believed, the entire theory cannot be passed under any context. Regular administration of antidepressants can also lead to an increase in neuroplasticity. The effect of the drug can be very different from person to person.(4)

Healthy Lifestyle Changes Along With Antidepressants

At this stage of the discussion, it must be pointed out that intake of antidepressants can have a very distinct impact on your lifestyle, your sleeping, and your behavioral patterns. Many people who take antidepressants for the very first time, often feel sleepy and groggy throughout their daily schedules. They may oversleep which can disrupt their daily routine. Hence just taking these medicines is not enough. You need a healthy lifestyle and must adhere to the guidelines that will help you to live a more active and healthier lifestyle. This will include proper diet, exercise, and sleep schedule. As your body gets used to the medicine the oversleeping will slowly subside.

Counseling and a good amount of personal determination can also help you to overcome the condition of depression. Many of these antidepressant medicines can be addictive. They happen to be prescription drugs strictly. This is why you must take the medicine for as long as the doctors have advised you. Do not prolong the usage of the medicine anything beyond that.

Important Points To Remember

These antidepressants react with the chemicals in your brain which can get further affected by the intake of intoxicants, illicit substances, and also some medicines. Hence at the time of taking these medicines, you need to be careful of the other things that you are having regularly. Stay away from alcohol, drugs, and other intoxicating things.

Have a clear discussion with your doctor who can inform you in all details on this matter.(2) Further, you need to be careful of the other medicines you are consuming at this time. Many of these medicines might adversely react with your antidepressant. This is exactly why you must have them on proper prescription and advice from the doctor. This will help you to be on the right track of treatment from the very beginning.


Antidepressants usually react with the neurotransmitters in the brain. Some of them even lead to the generation of the special hormone named serotonin that leads to a feel-good factor. Although there is a general pattern of working of these medicines, finer differences can occur amongst different people. However, they are likely to settle down in the long run.(1,3) Taking these antidepressants is safe and has become quite regular in the current times. A large number of people across the world are taking them to get assistance in coping with their condition of depressions.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 21, 2021

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