Why take antidepressants?

People suffering from depressive states are often caught in an endless spirale of negative feelings. (Photo: pixabay.com)

People suffering from depressive states are often caught in an endless spirale of negative feelings. Their only wish consists in returning to a normal state. This is where the question of what normality means comes into play. Another question we might ask ourselves is, what can be expected of medication.

"Normality" implies the ability to feel the whole spectrum of emotions. Instead, people with depression face a lasting mood decline from which they are unable to break free on their own.

A serious disease

People suffering from depression feel discouraged, sad and without energy. They lose interest in the things they once enjoyed. They have no taste for anything, fall into passivity, limit their social contacts and even become anxious. They struggle to concentrate and their thoughts "are going in circles". Not that they wallow in this negative state, but they are just unable to escape from it.  As a result, many people say that they are simply "losers", and in extreme cases, some of them even get suicidal ideas. The body may react by showing somatic symptoms such as sleep disorders, loss of appetite and sexuality, dorsolumbar pain or headaches and migraines. The more symptoms there are, the more serious the illness is likely to be. It is essential that these people receive prompt and professional support. They are indeed often the last ones to become aware of their own condition. This is where the intervention of family and friends takes on its full meaning.

Neurotransmitters out of balance

Depression certainly doesn't cause bruising, but is does cause pathological changes, specifically in the brain, where mediators such as serotonin and norepinephrine are warrants of an emotionally healthy life. An imbalanced state may result in depression. A potential trigger factor of depression is chronic stress. However, work-related stress may not be the sole determining factor - all forms of lasting stress, such as chronic illness, financial worries, relationship problems or the loss of a spouse, can also play a part. Normally, the brain can protect itself from the stress hormone, but the long-term nature of depression means that these defence mechanisms fail and the brain is confronted with hormonal disturbances. In this case, the antidepressant treatment aims at re-establishing the normal functioning of these mediators.

Necessary examinations

Depressive states can also originate from pre-existing illnesses, unless they accentuate them. These include for example cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, thyroid disease or iron deficiency. These conditions can also divert from detecting a depression.

On the other hand, antidepressants can also affect certain functions. Some may have effects on the heart, others on the liver; it is therefore recommanded to perform a number of tests before initiating the anti-depressant treatment itself. It is important that blood tests and other recommended examinations are well performed.

What can be expected from the treatment?

While some antidepressants may moderate negative emotions, their effect extends simultaneously to other types of emotions, while others are better able to help recover a wider and more diverse spectrum of emotions. Antidepressants often only work after a few weeks and it is not uncommon to have to try different types of antidepressants before finding the right one. It is therefore important to show a little patience. Even if mood improves, it is still important to continue taking the treatment regularly, which will stabilize the healing process.

Text: Dr. C. Schlatter, Medical Tribune Public - 11/2017
Translation: MyH - 11/2017