Treating Teen Depression with Anti-depressants

Teen depression continues to be common, and it can disrupt your child’s life as well as the life of your family. However, research shows that the combination of medication and individual therapy are quite effective for treating most mood disorders, such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).


If your teen has been diagnosed with MDD, you might have already had a discussion with his or her psychiatrist about medication. However, using psychotropic medication, although growing as a choice for treating psychological disorders, continues to carry a stigma. Sadly, those who take medication for their mental health are judged or looked down upon.


Despite this, when the right one is chosen, they can indeed be effective, and research continues to show that the effectiveness of psychotropic medication is enhanced when used along with participating in psychotherapy. The different types of anti-depressants vary based on the neurotransmitter and the associated brain chemical it affects. This also determines the side effects and the any potential drug interactions.


The following will review the various types of anti-depressants that are prescribed to adolescents for teen depression.


MAOI’s – Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors

These were the first class of anti-depressants to be developed. They increase levels of norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine by inhibiting an enzyme called monoamine oxidase. However, this drug has several side effects when use with other medication, which limits their usefulness with patients who take other forms of medication. They interact with other drugs that also increase levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, constrict blood vessels, or also inhibit monoamine oxidase.


TCA’s  – Tricyclic Antidepressants


This type of anti-depressant has been used since the 1950’s. They work by increasing the levels of norepinephrine as well as serotonin, but to a lesser degree. Because TCA’s also block other neurotransmitters as well, they are sometimes used to treat other mental illnesses, but for this reason, they also come with additional side effects.


SSRI’s – Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors


In 1965, Joseph Schildkraut found that depression was connected to the absence of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is both a neurotransmitter in the brain and a hormone that is released in the body during times of stress. As a neurotransmitter, it activates in the brain arousal and alertness.  However, later researchers discovered serotonin playing a larger role in the presence of depression. SSRI’s are used to increase the levels of serotonin, which can ease depressive symptoms. SSRI’s are incredibly effective, but they do come with risks. For teens in particular, it is essential to know that anti-depressants can cause suicidal thoughts and even attempts at suicide. For this reason, close communication with a psychiatrist as well as observation of your child is essential while he or she is using SSRI’s for the treatment of depression. However, SSRI’s have fewer and milder symptoms than other anti-depressants. When SSRI’s are taken with other drugs that increase serotonin levels, confusion, high blood pressure, tremors, and hyperactivity may be side effects.


SNRI’s – Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors


These anti-depressants are the new class of anti-depressants. They differ from SSRI’s in that they increase levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. They have similar side effects to SSRI’s as well.


Antidepressants are used to treat not only moderate to severe depression, but also other psychological disorders such as anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Antidepressants can also address the painful mood states that some with personality disorders experience. Considering the list above, it might be difficult to determine which antidepressant is the best for you. Of course, this kind of conversation is one to have with a psychiatrist. Nonetheless, you can consider the following list. An ideal drug should:

  • Do a good job of reducing or eliminating symptoms.
  • Be safe in that the side effects are not harming or dangerous.
  • Not interact with other drugs, making them ineffective or produce additional side effects.
  • Be convenient to use, such as a pill a day or with meals.
  • Be inexpensive.


As a caregiver of a depressed teen, having your child assessed, diagnosed, and treated by a mental health professional will facilitate the emotional and psychological well being of your child.




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