How Antidepressants Work
Most antidepressants work by changing the balance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. In people with depression, these chemicals are not used properly by the brain. Antidepressants make the chemicals more available to brain cells like the one shown on the right side of this slide.
Antidepressants can be prescribed by any doctor, but people with severe symptoms are usually referred to a psychiatrist.
Antidepressants are a broad group of drugs that are used in the treatment of depression. Although they do not cure depression, they are usually effective at improving mood and relieving symptoms such as restlessness, anxiety, sleep problems, and suicidal thoughts.
There are at least six main types (classes) of antidepressants. For example, the tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, serotonin and nor-epinephrine re-uptake inhibitors, nor-epinephrine and dopamine re-uptake inhibitors, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and the atypical antidepressants. Each type has a slightly different action on specific neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine. Side effects also differ between classes.
Some reduction in symptoms may be noticed within one to two weeks; however, it may take several months of treatment for the full effects to be seen.
Anxiety disorders are different, though. They are a group of mental illnesses, and the distress they cause can keep you from carrying on with your life normally.