Answers About Antidepressants

"Studies in animals in medicines similar to this one have shown that it may cause decreased survival rates and slowed growth in offspring when given to the mother in doses many times higher than the usual human dose. Before taking this medicine, make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant or if you may become pregnant."

For more information on antidepressants and pregnancy, check out:

Question: Regarding treatment of depression, does it differ how treatment would be applied based on the source of depression? For example, if someone knows why they are depressed versus someone that doesn't know. Is depression basically always the same? (From Ed M. in Philadelphia.)

Answer: No, depression is not always the same and the same treatment won't work for everyone. For example, people who have low self-esteem or who are readily overwhelmed by stress, are prone to depression. And in recent years, researchers have shown that physical changes in the body can be accompanied by mental changes as well. Medical illnesses such as stroke, a heart attack, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and hormonal disorders can cause depressive illness, making the sick person apathetic and unwilling to care for his or her physical needs.

Also, a serious loss, difficult relationship, financial problem, or any stressful (unwelcome or even desired) change in life patterns can trigger a depressive episode. Very often, a combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors is involved in the onset of a depressive disorder. Later episodes of illness typically are precipitated by only mild stresses, or none at all.

That's why it's helpful to talk about depression with a psychiatrist, therapist or someone else you trust when figuring out a short- or long-term treatment. Question: My 12-year-old daughter was just put on Zoloft yesterday. What are some of the signs I need to watch for if there are any thoughts of suicide? I am very interested in this now. (from Cindy M., Coconut Creek, Fla.)

Answer: It's good to know that for any patient taking antidepressants the first month is a critical period because all antidepressants take about a month to start working. The American Association of Suicidology has a list of warning signs for suicide, with the helpful mnemonic acronym: IS PATH WARM?

I is for Ideation: Expressed or communicated ideation, such as threatening to hurt or kill oneself, or talking about wanting to; looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.

S is for Substance Abuse: Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use

P is for Purposelessness: Feeling or expressing no reason for living; no sense of purpose in life

A is for Anxiety: Anxiety, agitation, inability to sleep or sleeping all the time

T is for Trapped: Feeling trapped (like there's no way out)

H is for Hopelessness: Feeling hopeless or a sense of hopelessness

W is for Withdrawal: Withdrawal from friends, family and society

A is for Anger: Feeling rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

R is for Recklessness: Acting reckless or engaging in risk activities, seemingly without thinking

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