Antidepressants are mainly used to treat anxiety and depression. At different doses they can also be used to treat other common conditions. For example insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome. Antidepressants can either be used for short courses (usually a minimum of 6 months) or, less commonly, as lifelong medications. The dose can be titrated up and down according to response and side effects. Antidepressants can be used successfully in conjunction with psychological therapies to treat depression, especially in people who are experiencing lack of motivation and difficulty engaging with psychological therapies.
There are different types of antidepressants. Each class of antidepressant has a different mechanism of action. The majority of antidepressants used commonly increase the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical believed to regulate emotions, anxiety and mood in the brain. One of the mechanisms in depression is believed to be low levels of serotonin.
Types of antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants. SSRIs are most commonly prescribed in UK, and there are many different antidepressants within this class, including citalopram, fluoxetine and sertraline.
There are number of common side effects for antidepressants, and they are more prevalent at the start of treatment, these include, night sweats, vivid dreams, sleeplessness, nausea, initially worsening of anxiety and mood symptoms.