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Weight gain and diabetes are serious side effects of antidepressants. Since depression is becoming a very common condition, doctors must monitor their patients who are taking these drugs to reduce their risk of suffering from these side effects.

There are many reasons why people use antidepressants. After all, depression is a very common disorder that affects almost 15 million US adults. However, even children, teenagers and older adults may be affected. It is estimated that by 2020, depression will be a major cause of disability, ranking second to ischemic heart disease.

Depression and Antidepressants

Doctors treat people suffering from depression using various forms of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and antidepressants.

Depression can lead to physical, mental, social, and emotional disability. Aside from these, it can also increase one’s risk for suicidal tendencies, leading doctors to prescribe long-term use of antidepressants in many patients. In most patients, these now commonly prescribed drugs lead to a remission of symptoms and an improved quality of life.

However, the use of these drugs has some side effects, among which are weight-gain and increased blood sugar levels.

These can increase one’s risk for type 2 diabetes. This leads patients and doctors to ask, can we blame antidepressants for type 2 diabetes? Although some people may think that depression itself could increase one's tendency to overeat or remain sedentary and put on weight, researchers have found a possible link between antidepressant therapy, weight gain, and diabetes.

Treatment of Depression

People who experience long-lasting symptoms or sadness, anxiety, poor appetite, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal, and having thoughts of dying or suicidal tendencies are often diagnosed to be suffering from depression. These symptoms can lead to physical and mental health problems, decreased work productivity and disability. Because of these, physicians may prescribe different types of antidepressants to reduce these symptoms, which include:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants, which help restore the balance of neurochemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. This class of drugs includes Norpramin, Elavil, and Pamelor.
  • SSRIs, or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, which prevent the reabsorption of the serotonin, thus helping to enhance its availability to the brain cells. These include Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.
  • SNRIs, or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, such as Pristiq, Effexor, and Cymbalta. These prevent the reabsorption of the norepinephrine, thus helping to enhance its availability to the brain cells.

These drugs help boost energy and improve the mood of depressed individuals. They also help prevent relapsesin the long term. Some patients experience mild side effects such as dizziness, difficulty falling asleep, nausea, and headaches, which often disappear or become tolerable over some time.

However, a few develop serious weight problems, which sometimes lead to high blood sugar levels characteristic of type 2 diabetes.

These problems pose a serious concern for patients and can even increase their level of anxiety. Some would opt to stop taking their medications, which is not favorable, since it would trigger relapses or exacerbation of their depressive symptoms.

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