Mental Health

Why Your Antidepressant Is Making You Depressed

Why Your Antidepressant Is Making You Depressed

Anti-depressants are a wonderful medical advancement that can help someone get out of bed and enjoy their lives like they really should. Most of the time, they are known as serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are compounds that help increase the levels of a "happy" neurotransmitter in the brain. Like all medications, however, there are risks with taking anti-depressants.

Do antidepressants really work?

For some people, antidepressants don't work. Everyone responds differently to medications, especially when you're treating something as variable as depression. Depression is a condition that is poorly understood, and research has only brushed the surface in terms of figuring out why some people are predisposed to this condition.

Learn how to make better choices when choosing an anti-depressant

Right now, we don't have a good method of choosing the right drug. Unfortunately, people often have to resort to trial and error, cycling through a bunch of medications and waiting to see if they work. Even more frustrating is the amount of time that is needed to give each drug a fair chance. Most doctors say that antidepressants don't start working until at least a month after starting.

Why might some people not respond to anti-depressant therapy?

Though mice are not humans, scientists can learn a lot from using these animal models. Recently, scientists turned to mouse experiments to study this varied response to anti-depressants. They took mice who responded to SSRIs and those who didn't and studied molecules inside their blood. It turns out that mice who didn't respond well to the drug had higher levels of a stress response byproduct. The presence or absence of a specific transcription factor could predict whether an antidepressant would be effective for someone. They found that this remained true even in a group of human patients with depression. At this time their data points to a prediction accuracy of only 76%. Though it might sound high, it's not high enough to support the development of a new standard of care.

Ironically, antidepressants can make you more suicidal

There are some risks when taking anti-depressants too. When someone's depression starts to feel better, one of the first improvements is energy level. Though that may help someone get out of bed every day, an increase in energy at the beginning of the healing stages may actually hurt them too. Some people may think about suicide more, and now they have the energy to think more actively about it.

SSRIs have a black-box warning

If you have a child who suffers from depression, be even more cautious of this increased suicide risk. More than a decade ago, research found that patients under the age of 25 may be twice as likely to experience suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The FDA then put a black-box warning on all antidepressants to let people know the risks of taking the drug. These types of warnings are serious, and can also be seen on cigarette packages.

The same side effect didn't seem to hold true for adults. When researchers looked at the data for adults over the age of 25, they didn't find any evidence of increased risk of suicide.

Read on to learn more about the link between antidepressants and suicide risk.