Are antidepressant and antipsychotic medications safe and effective?

You have probably heard of antidepressant or antipsychotic medications. The have become a very common option for treating depression, anxiety, and variety of other diagnoses - some readers may even currently be subscribed these types of medications. But, do you know exactly what they are, or how safe and effective they are? In today's article we take a deeper look at antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, in relation to treating depression.

What’s the difference between antidepressant and an antipsychotic medications?

Antidepressant medications are most commonly used for the treatment of depression, but can be used for other health conditions such as insomnia or anxiety. These medications don’t cure depression, but can offer relief from depression symptoms. There are a number of different antidepressants on the market, each working in a slightly different way.

Some common types of antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), to name a few. When prescribing antidepressants, doctors typically begin with an SSRI or SNRI because these cover a wide range of symptoms, and typically offer fewer, milder side effects when compared to other types of antidepressants. Tricyclics, tetracyclics, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may be the best treatment option for some patients suffering from depression, but are often prescribed when other medications haven't worked because they can have more serious side effects.

Antipsychotic medications are used to manage psychosis or conditions that affect the mind, such as hallucinations, or delusions. They can also be used to treat severe depression or bipolar disorder. Like antidepressant medications, antipsychotic medications do not cure depression, or other mental health conditions, they do however offer relief from symptoms and improve quality of life.

Are these medications safe and effective?

As with any medication, antidepressants and antipsychotic medications come with their own list of side effects. The most common side effects experienced while taking antidepressants are weight gain, nausea or vomiting, sexual problems, fatigue, or diarrhea. Symptoms of aggression, violence, new or worsening depression, thoughts of suicide, or other unusual changes in behavior or mood should be addressed with your physician immediately.

Antipsychotic medications have a much longer list of side effects when compared to antidepressant medications. Side effects of antipsychotics can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, constipation, dry mouth, blurred vision, tics or tremors, seizures, or low white blood cell (which is what helps your body fight infections). Despite the long list of side effects, antipsychotic medications may be the best medication for some depression sufferers, depending on the severity of their symptoms. A physician will prescribe a course of treatment based on the patient's specific needs.

FDA approved antidepressants and antipsychotics are safe and can be effective for most people at relieving symptoms of depression. Your physician may even recommend combining your medication with psychotherapy or talk therapy to help improve symptoms. However, it is important to note that not every medication is right for every person. If you experience side effects that hinder your daily activities, or the medications aren’t working to improve your depression symptoms you should speak to your doctor - he or she may change dosages or explore alternative medication options. When taking antidepressant or antipsychotic medications it is important that you follow your doctor's orders, and take the correct dosage consistently. You should never stop taking your prescribed medication without consulting your doctor first.

Is there an alternative treatment option?

While these medications can be effective, there is a percentage of depression sufferers who can’t find relief from medication alone. If you or a loved one have experienced severe depression symptoms, medication resistant symptoms, or have tried medications that caused side effects that interfere with your daily life, there may be another treatment option. TMS Therapy, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is a safe, non-invasive, non-drug treatment option for depression. The goal of TMS Therapy is to target areas of the brain that are under active in depression sufferers using repetitive magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms. You can learn more about TMS Therapy, and whether it may be right for you on our blog.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, you should contact your doctor to talk about your mental health and to discuss what treatment option may be best for you. Contact the Signature Psychiatry office to speak with our staff and schedule an appointment to discuss your mental health.

National Institute of Mental Health (2016). Mental Health Medications. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from

Mayo Clinic (2017). Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from