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Antidepressant facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts

An antidepressant is a type of medication that is used to treat people with mood disorders including depression. There are different types of antidepressant, called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), tetracyclic antidepressants (TeCAs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Antidepressants are used to treat some anxiety disorders, some chronic pain conditions, and to help manage some addictions. There are effective treatments for depression which do not involve medications or may be used in conjunction with medications.


Extracts from the herb St John's wort have been used as a "nerve tonic" to alleviate depression. St John's wort fell out of favor in most countries through the 19th and 20th centuries, except in Germany, where Hypericum extracts were eventually licensed, packaged and prescribed. Small-scale efficacy trials were carried out in the 1970s and 1980s, and attention grew in the 1990s following a meta-analysis. It remains an over-the-counter drug (OTC) supplement in most countries.

How they work

Antidepressants work to improve the mood. Doctors think that when someone is depressed, the chemicals in their brain are not working properly. Antidepressants balance these chemicals, lifting the depression.

Side effects

Common side-effects of antidepressants include dry mouth, weight gain, dizziness, headaches, and emotional blunting. A discontinuation syndrome can occur after stopping any antidepressant which resembles recurrent depression.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Antidepresivo para niños

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