What are Antidepressants?
Antidepressants are a common form of medication that are often prescribed for mental health conditions. Much like a GP will prescribe an antibiotic for an infection, antidepressants or SSRI’s are prescribed to help alleviate debilitating mental health conditions such as depression. When starting antidepressants, it can be useful to know that they are not there to change your personality; however, they can reduce the severity of symptoms you may be experiencing and give you space and support to get better.
It's thought that antidepressants work by increasing serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a brain chemical or neurotransmitter that is present in the gut and in the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that fire from one neuron to the next causing an electrical signal to either continue or stop, effectively allowing messages to travel from one area of the brain to another. Antidepressants or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors increase the amount of free serotonin in the brain and as serotonin is also involved in creating positive mood states, it is thought that more serotonin leads to an increase in a positive mood. However, serotonin actually rises quite quickly in the brain after taking an antidepressant, yet symptom reduction can take a number of weeks to become apparent. Not exactly what you would expect if more serotonin directly increases positive mood.
So, what is going on in the brain? Well, the brain is the most complex system known to man so many feel that attributing such a simple cause and effect relationship between serotonin and positive mood is just too simplistic. Instead, it is likely that behaviors such as mood are influenced by a chorus of neurotransmitters that, much like the letters in this page are combine together to form a coherent story, work together to create mood states, behaviors, feelings and much of the inner world you experience. Some medical and research professionals now believe that antidepressants may work by increasing neurogenesis or the growth of new neurons in the brain. Neurogenesis would also explain why when starting antidepressants, it can often take a number of weeks to see an effect.
Either way, we know that Antidepressants help people who are suffering from mental health conditions all over the world, yet certain SSRI’s work better for certain people. This is why our study is trying to create a tool that will predict who will respond to what treatment, meaning that people get the individual treatment they need, faster.