5 Things You Should (But Probably Don’t) Know About Anti-Depressants

Anti-depressants are a topic that is becoming increasingly more debated in the medical community. Studies have yielded conflicting results about their effectiveness and it is especially unclear how well they work when it comes to children and teenagers.

1. How They Work

While a lack of serotonin is not the only contributing factor to depression, anti-depressants can offer a boost that will help regulate mood that is best supplemented by an alternative treatment like talk therapy.

People who are struggling with depression may have low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy. The way anti-depressants—also known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors—work is by balancing out the chemistry in the brain to boost happiness levels.

2. How Long They Take


Image Credit: Ivan Karasev

Some teens feel better after a few months, some will need to take them long-term. It is also recommended to take the pills consistently for six to nine months—even if you see results right away—to ensure that the individual is stable before going off the drug.

If taken as prescribed, the pills are meant to begin making a difference after about two months. Medical professionals advise that someone be watched very carefully during those two months because that is when they are at the highest risk for suicidal thoughts.

Cases where depression has worsened are often where the depression was not very deep or severe in the first place. Therapy is usually recommended to accompany the drug.

3. Safety Risks

There is a risk that, for some, taking anti-depressants will increase depression and suicide risk, particularly in children and youth. Anyone on anti-depressants should be very closely monitored by the people around them as well as their healthcare professional.

4. Side Effects


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Other side effects can include, but are not limited to:

  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches

Side effects also depend on the specific anti-depressant. There are several that are approved by the FDA, but only few are allowed to be prescribed to children. Your doctor may also prescribe an anti-depressant that is off-label. This is a common practice. Make sure to thoroughly research the type of anti-depressant the doctor recommends.

5. Alternative Treatments

Anti-depressants are some of the most frequently prescribed medications in the United States, but they are not the only option for relieving depression. Alternative treatments include talk therapy, equine therapy and art therapy, among others.

There are also lifestyle changes your teen can make and things they can do to alleviate depression in their daily lives, such as implementing a good diet and exercise routine and getting adequate sleep.

There are lots of different factors to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to put your teen on anti-depressants. Weigh the potential benefits against the risks and work with your doctor to choose the treatments that are going to be best for your child.

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