3 common major depressive disorder medications you should know about


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Medicine can help alleviate many of our bodily aches and pains, from headaches caused by staring at a screen to the seasonal flu. But it’s important to think about how medicine can help our mental health just as much as our physical health. Medication is a treatment option for many mental health disorders, such as depression.

Major depressive disorder affects more than 17 million American adults, and, based on a study from 2018, 13.2% of Americans over the age of 18 take antidepressants. But what are the most common medications that are prescribed for major depressive disorder? That’s what we’re here to share.

Read on to learn about the basics of depression, the benefits of taking medication and the most common major depressive disorder medications that you should know. You’ll also learn about how process-based therapy can be a good alternative or adjunct to medication for depression. 

The basics of depression

Major depressive disorder, commonly known as depression, is a mood disorder that causes overwhelming negative emotions. It not only affects you emotionally, but it can impact your psychological and physical well-being as well. This mental health issue makes it difficult to form meaningful connections with others, find success in the workplace and regulate your emotions. 

Depression symptoms can manifest at any age, but they are most common for people between the ages of 18 and 29.

The most common signs of depression include:

  • Consistent and overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness 
  • Heightened frustration and irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Inconsistent sleep patterns, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Lack of energy
  • Trouble with memory, concentration and decision-making
  • Fixation or guilt over past situations and failures
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidality

The benefits of treating depression with medication

Depression is a health issue, so that means it needs to be treated with the same amount of care that you would with any other bodily issue. The two main treatment options for depression are therapy and medication, both of which can be given by a mental health provider. 

The goal of taking medication for depression is to alleviate the symptoms that prevent you from completing your day-to-day tasks and having a fulfilling lifestyle. 

There are many benefits to taking medication to treat depression symptoms, including:

  • Decreased negative emotions to boost your mood
  • Increased motivation
  • Reduced likelihood of symptoms recurring 
  • Improved and/or regulated sleep patterns
  • Increased concentration

3 common major depressive disorder medications 

When it comes to treating depression, your mental health provider will likely prescribe you a type of antidepressant. The prescription of antidepressants becomes more common as people age, and their usage has grown more than 60% in the United States since 1999. 

Antidepressants help to balance the chemicals in your brain that have been affected by depression. There are a few different types of major depressive disorder medications that are available. Your mental health provider will determine which type would work best for you based on the severity of your symptoms and medical history as well as potential side effects.

The three most common types of medications for major depressive disorder are:

  • SSRIs — Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are the most prescribed antidepressants by health care professionals. These medications boost the serotonin in your brain, which is the neurotransmitter that helps to control your mood, appetite and sleep. There are many different SSRIs, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil). These medications can also be used to treat other mental health issues including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  • SNRIs — Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs, are similar to SSRIs. They boost not only your serotonin levels, but your norepinephrine as well. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter and hormone that plays an important role in your brain’s “fight-or-flight” response, which is how your body responds to perceived danger. The most common SNRIs include brand names Effexor, Cymbalta and Fetzima.

  • NDRIs — Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) boost your levels of norepinephrine and dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in positive emotions and energy. The most common NDRI used for depression is Wellbutrin.

How processed-based therapy can serve as an adjunct to medication for major depressive disorder

While medication for major depressive disorder is an effective treatment for many people, the combination of medication and psychotherapy provides the best outcomes.

Process-based therapy is a clinical model that treats you as more than just your depression. It provides you with a holistic treatment plan that’s personalized to your needs and treats the underlying drivers of your depression. It allows you to tackle your mental health from every facet using integrated interventions, including:

  • Motivational enhancement
  • Arousal reduction
  • Family intervention
  • Values clarification
  • Cognitive defusion

The interventions allow you to work through your depression symptoms that stem from drivers such as:

  •  Emotion dysregulation and avoidance
  •  Shame and cognitive fusion
  •  Meaningless and alienation
  •  Interpersonal conflict and disconnection

Find help for depression at Lightfully Behavioral Health

If you’re experiencing symptoms of major depressive disorder, you can explore our process-based therapy as a compassionate and effective way to work through your symptoms and progress on your mental health journey. 

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step toward treating your major depressive disorder, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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