Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination


Anti-depressant Medication

For some people, at some times, depression can be so severe that it dominates their lives. It makes life barely worth living and prevents people from coping as they used to. This is not 'giving in'. Being accused of self-pity or 'not pulling yourself together' does not help in the least. Depression to this degree is an illness and needs treatment.

When someone has been diagnosed with a depressive illness they are likely to be prescribed with antidepressant medication as part of their treatment.

60-70% of people with major depressive illness respond to initial appropriate antidepressant treatment.

These types of medication are able to reduce the symptoms of depression including:

  • Feeling low in mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulty in thinking and concentrating


There is a range of antidepressants available and it is generally thought that they have similar effectiveness. However, antidepressant drugs differ in their likely side effects and their safety in overuse. These are key considerations for a health professional when deciding which medication to prescribe.

As there are differences in the way people respond to each antidepressant drug, the doctor may have to change the medication to find one that works best for the person concerned.

It may take between two and four weeks after first taking medication before it starts to have an antidepressant effect.

Newer antidepressants have fewer side effects and a wider safety margin than the older tricyclic antidepressants. These newer medications include: Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Aropax), Venlafaxine, Citalopram (Cipramil), and Moclobemide (Aurorix).

Some people may experience side effects from the newer antidepressants - e.g.:

Nausea, nervousness, diarrhoea, headaches, insomnia, and in some cases restlessness and agitation. Not everyone will experience these side effects but if they do they should discuss them with their doctor.

In certain cases, where the depression is particularly severe, the newer antidepressants may not be as effective as the older tricyclic antidepressants. Among others, these include:

  • Amitriptyline (Trypanol)
  • Imipramine (Melipramine and Tofranil)
  • Nortryptyline (Norpress)

Side effects such as dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, urinary retention, sedation, and weight gain have been associated with them. It is important to discuss any side effects with your GP.

When depression is part of a bi-polar disorder, a mood stabilising medication may be prescribed to reduce the frequency and severity of episodes. Such medications include:

  • Lithium Carbonate (Lithicarb)
  • Cabamazepine (Tegratol)
  • Sodium Valporate (Epilim)

Again, side effects and any precautions neccessary whie taking these medications should be discussed with your doctor.

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Taranaki Mental Health Sector

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