At the present time, the most commonly- prescribed antidepressants belong to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class, or SSRIs, a newer type of antidepressant working on serotonin levels in the brain. In the past, another class of medications, called monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs, which affect dopamine and norepinephrine levels, was in common usage. MAOIs, though still sometimes used, have some intrusive side effects, including dry mouth, constipation, and food interactions. The antidepressants most frequently prescribed at present include Celexa, Cymbalta, Effexor, Paxil, Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft and Wellbutrin.
Anti-anxiety medications, also known as tranquilizers, are used to treat patients with heightened levels of anxiety. Some patients may experience abnormal anxiety only under certain circumstances, such as in social situations (social anxiety disorder) or when confronted with particular objects or animals (phobias), and so may take prescribed medications only as needed.
Other patients may suffer from ongoing conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which may require a regular course of daily medication. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) may be treated with anti-anxiety medications or with antidepressants.
Antipsychotic medications have enabled patients with serious mental disorders to reclaim their lives. These medicines successfully treat many patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and are sometimes used with autistic patients. They keep delusions and hallucinations at bay, apparently by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain.
There are two groups of these medications presently in use, referred to as First and Second generation antipsychotics. First-generation antipsychotics, like Haldol, were the first line of defense for several decades, but in recent times, second-generation medications, like Clozaril, Risperdal, and Abilify, are more commonly prescribed.
Since bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, affects approximately 3 percent of the population, mood stabilizers are prescribed frequently. Mood stabilizers treat the dramatic mood swings that define the disorder. These medications are also sometimes used to treat milder mood disorders, such as cyclothymic disorder and some personality disorders.
Lithium has been used as a mood-stabilizing medication for a long time. During the past few decades, anti-seizure medications, such as Depakote and Tegretol, have also become staples for treating mood disorders.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including impulsivity and out-of-control behavior, respond well to medications classified as stimulants, which are believed to increase dopamine in the brain. Commonly prescribed stimulants include Adderall and Ritalin. While very effective in some cases of ADHD, these medications, too, have side effects which may be troublesome, such as decreased appetite and sleep disturbances.
Your provider will discuss the risks of medication, including precautions and potential side effects and/or adverse reactions before prescribing.