Antidepressants are drugs used to treat chemical imbalances in the brain that alter a person’s mood so negatively that they can no longer function normally. An anti-depressant isn’t a stimulant. It just prevents existing chemicals in your brain from being processed too quickly so you can be in more adequate control of your mood. The brain uses things called neurotransmitters to send signals from one part of the brain to another. And when one of those neurotransmitters, serotonin, is in shortage, the effects of depression are felt. A very high amount of serotonin is found in the brain in people who have committed suicide as well, which is evidence that perhaps too much of it was processed at once to create feelings of extreme depression. The two most common antidepressants work to prevent the brain from absorbing too much serotonin at once to keep you balanced.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) were one of the first antidepressants developed. The purpose of MAOIs is to block the processing of serotonin by inhibiting the enzymes that process the chemical into the brain. But the more common antidepressant you’ve probably heard of are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications work by blocking receptors that absorb serotonin so that serotonin stays in the synapse longer and isn’t immediately taken into the brain after it is produced.

Despite whatever you hear in a commercial, antidepressants are not meant to help turn someone’s life around overnight. Antidepressants are meant to help treat a chemical imbalance in the brain and don’t help us erase trauma and sadness from our lives. You should only consider asking about antidepressants if you feel you are not in control of how you feel and there’s no real life evidence to suggest what is getting you down. Also, only consider antidepressants if you feel like there is a constant struggle to remain positive while in everyday situations.