You, your teen, and your doctor should discuss whether antidepressant medicine might help your teen. Medicine is more important if your teen is severely depressed. In these cases, talk therapy alone cannot be effective.
If you decide that medicine would help, your doctor will most likely prescribe a type of anti-depressant medicine called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) for your teen.
The two most common SSRI medicines are fluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro). These are approved to treat depression in teenagers. Prozac isalso approved for children age 8 and older.
Another type of antidepressants, called tri-cyclics, is not approved for use in teens.
There are risks and side effects with taking antidepressant medicines. Your teen’s doctor can help manage these side effects. In a small number of teens, these medicines can make them more depressed and give them more suicidal thoughts. If this happens, you or your teen should talk to the doctor right away.
If you, your teen, and your doctor decide that your teen will take an antidepressant, make sure that:
- You give it time. Finding the right drug and dose can take time. It could take 4 to 6 weeks to get to full effect.
- A psychiatrist, or other medical doctor, who treats depression in teens is watching for side effects.
- You and other caregivers watch your teen for suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and for nervousness, irritability, moodiness, or sleeplessness that is getting worse. Get medical help for these symptoms right away.
- Your teen does not stop taking the antidepressant on their own. Talk to your teen’s health care provider first. If your team decides to stop taking the antidepressant, your teen may be instructed to lower the dose slowly before stopping altogether.
- Keep your teen going to talk therapy.
- If your teen is depressed in the fall or winter, ask your doctor about light therapy. It uses a special lamp that acts like the sun.