As a parent of a teen suffering from depression, it can be difficult to know the right way to help them get through this tough time in their life. You may find yourself wondering if antidepressant medication can help. Although generally safe, antidepressants can have some unintended side effects that many parents understandably worry about. However, they can also be great tools that can help your teenager overcome their feelings of depression and improve their mood. Below we explore some of the pros and cons of antidepressant use that are important to keep in mind, as well as some non-medication alternatives that may be useful as well.
There are a few different types of antidepressant medications. They each work in a unique way to change how our brains produce and process the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, emotion and energy levels. These include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
- SSRIs: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a class of medications that stop synapses from reabsorbing serotonin, effectively increasing the amount of available serotonin in the brain. When used properly and under medical supervision, SSRIs can help teens manage their feelings of depression with minimal side effects.
- MAOIs: Monoamine oxidase inhibitors also increase the amount of available serotonin in the brain, but they do so by stopping the enzyme that would break it down. Although they were one of the first antidepressants developed, they’re not as frequently prescribed due to their higher risk for negative side effects and common drug and food interactions.
- TCAs: Tricyclic antidepressants are another class of medication which is no longer in common use for teenagers today. Although they can be effective for some types of depression, the risk for side effects is greater and they’re often reserved for individuals that are unresponsive to SSRIs.
Alternatives to Antidepressants
Certain lifestyle changes and alternative therapies have been shown to be able to improve mild to moderate symptoms of depression.
Exercise and a balanced diet of healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables can have a significant effect on mood, and often some of the feelings that lead to depression can be caused by the effect of unhealthy fats and processed foods on our bodies.
Another useful alternative is transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS for short. Readers can click here for TMS explained in detail. Simply put, this non-invasive procedure uses magnetic fields to stimulate specific regions of the brain, which has been shown to improve the symptoms of depression in about half of patients. It has minimal side effects, is considered usually safe, and has been shown to be effective within just a few sessions.
Consult your doctor if you’re interested in trying this option for your teenager.
Benefits of Medication
The use of antidepressants along with psychotherapy can be very beneficial for many teens. Together, these two techniques have been shown to cause a noticeable improvement of depression symptoms. Antidepressants can help teens by:
- Improving mood
- Increasing focus
- Improving appetite
- Reducing feelings of stress and anxiety that often accompany depression
- Reducing insomnia
Drawbacks of Medication
While supervised antidepressant use can be very helpful, it doesn’t come without its disadvantages. Some of the side-effects caused by these medications can be minor and simply irritating, but there are some potential dangers to keep in mind. Antidepressant side-effects can include:
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
- Headaches and dizziness
- Weight gain
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also issued a broad warning regarding the potential of antidepressants for teens to moderately increase suicidal thoughts. While the research on this effect isn’t conclusive, and the FDA only analyzed nine antidepressants in their study, it is still an important point to consider when deciding if antidepressant medications are right for your teen.
As a parent, you always have your children’s best interests at heart. That’s why it’s important to become well-educated on the different options available to help them. By exploring alternatives, you can avoid some of the potentially negative side effects associated with antidepressants, all while helping your teenager improve their mood and increase their happiness, which as a parent, is all we all really want.