Mental Illness: The Last Stigma

How Antidepressants Help Fight Depression


"They're effective, but not 100%" (:55)
Dr. Kenneth Robbins explains how antidepressants and mood stabilizers work.

While antidepressants are effective, they don't work magic. In this video, Kenneth Robbins, MD, clinical associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains why doctors prescribe antidepressants. They can improve mood, concentration, sleep, and other daily aspects that start to suffer at the onset of depression. While many patients are on medication for a short time, your doctor may recommend you stay on antidepressants for years or even for life if you are experiencing severe depression. If you have bipolar disorder you may forgo antidepressants in favor of mood stabilizers, which prevent manic episodes. And while people with depression may be on their medication only temporarily, bipolar patients are often on mood stabilizers for life. Some bipolar patients experience “cognitive dulling” from their medication, but it is important that they stick to their treatment to avoid manic phases. Studies suggest that patients taking mood stabilizers may not need antidepressants as well, since this can sometimes trigger manic phases. Just like depressed patients often have to try many medications to find the right fit, the same holds true for bipolar disorder.

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