How Antidepressants Can Change the Brain

According to a recent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, thirteen percent of all Americans take antidepressant drugs. Depression is a common, serious illness that can happen to anyone, at any age. It can come about through hormonal changes or life events. Many people suffering from depression do not seek medical help.

An antidepressant prescription is only one of many ways to treat depression, and often part of a treatment plan that also involves therapy. Symptoms of depression include fatigue, persistent sadness or anxiety, insomnia, and feelings of guilt or hopelessness, among many others. If a person experiences depression symptoms, they should consult their doctor. Untreated depression can lead to many problems, including alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide.

How Antidepressants Work

There are a few different kinds of antidepressants, but they all claim to work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. WebMD explains that these chemicals pass signals from cell to cell in the brain. Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are all examples. Antidepressants are thought to affect the way neurotransmitters behave. Unfortunately, these drugs have also been found to change the brain of the patient.

A recent study has shown that these antidepressant drugs can start changing the brain very quickly, within hours, and only after one dose. As reported in Time Magazine, the study took brain scans of 22 people, and some of them were administered an antidepressant drug while the others were given a placebo. Three hours later, another brain scan confirmed changes had been made to the brain to the group taking the antidepressant.

It is believed that by balancing the neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood and emotions, antidepressants can help a person overcome their depression. There are many unfortunate side effects of these medications, one of the most serious of which is heart and lung conditions in newborn babies born to mothers who took certain medications during pregnancy, leading to the FDA issuing a safety announcement. Another dangerous side effect is termed “suicidal ideation.”

As the depression could be the result of a life situation, such as divorce or the death of a loved one, the drug may reduce the impact of the loss, but may have a “numbing” effect. Sadly, no drug can target just one life situation, and with emotional responses numbed, a person may tend to more easily consider ideas such as suicide.

Any person considering taking depression medication should get help. Minor cases of depression are treated differently in the UK than in the USA, with treatments focused on exercise, connecting with other people, eating a healthy diet and other actions. Unfortunately, the claims regarding a drug resolving a “chemical imbalance,” to this day, have not been scientifically proven to be true, as was reported in the NY Times.

For some people, the antidepressant prescribed had no positive effect. A patient may be prescribed several drugs or dosages in an attempt to get results. When a first prescription is not effective, another drug may be added. All drugs have side effects, and patients should understand these thoroughly. Information about drug side effects can be found on the drug company’s website, and on other medical sites.

It is important that any person taking specific antidepressant medications works closely with a doctor when coming off the drug. Many of the most significant side effects are associated with ending the use of the medication, and your physician can help you with a “wind-down” period in which dosages are slowly reduced.

Author: Joan Evans

Joan Evans is a mental health specialist and has a great interest in personality disorders. In her spare time she likes to go to the woods with her golden retriever, Leroy, and write fiction.

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