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Antidepressants - The theory behind the drugs

    There are a number of antidepressant drugs currently on the market. The older antidepressants, known as Tricyclics and MAOI's (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors), tend to be prescribed less often than the newer SSRI's (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). This is because the SSRI antidepressants are thought to have fewer side effects and reduced toxicity in overdose.

Typical drugs within the SSRI category are Seroxat, Cipramil, and Prozac. There are a number of initial and on-going side-effects associated with these drugs including nausea, sleep problems, headache, restlessness, fever, sweating, dizziness, sedation and sexual dysfunction. Vaginal bleeding has also been reported after withdrawal of SSRI's. The severity of any side-effects/withdrawal effects may be dependant on the length of time the drugs are taken and the dosage.

The neurotransmitter, Serotonin, is thought to have an effect on mood - although, its function is not fully understood. Therefore, the efficacy (effectiveness) of the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI's) is also not fully understood. However, it is thought that by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, it may be possible to lift depressed feelings.

Current theory about these antidepressants is that they act within the brain to restrict the reuptake (reabsorption) of Serotonin back into the original nerve cell once the neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) has jumped between one nerve cell and the next. By preventing the natural reabsorption of serotonin, the neurotransmitter remains in the gap (synapse) between nerve cells and floods the system - thus increasing serotonin levels.

It is clearly a personal choice whether or not to take antidepressants drugs and to balance the risks against the possible benefits. Although, given our limited knowledge of the human brain and its delicate and complex nature it may be worth questioning the wisdom of attempting to alter its natural balance by artificial means.

If you are currently taking antidepressants and would like to learn more about possible withdrawal effects, a good source of information is the publication Your Drug May Be Your Problem by P.Breggin M.D & D.Cohen PH.D (ISBN 0-7382-0348-3). There is also a booklet entitled Coping with coming off by Jim Read. This booklet can be ordered or accessed online at

Guidelines from The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) suggest that for mild to moderate depression, psychological treatments (counselling/psychotherapy) should be considered. For further details visit


Andersen Counselling & Advice, Chelmsford, Essex UK.
Andersen Counselling 2005-2011. All rights reserved. Created by CWD

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