Disorders and Treatment
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Depression often co-occurs with one or more of a variety of anxiety disorders. For that reason, it is beneficial to have a medication that effectively treats both problems. Effexor does that.
Effexor (venlafaxine) is one of a class of serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressants. As such, it acts in the brain to prolong the time that serotonin and norepinephrine are present in the central nervous system (CNS).
Serotonin in the CNS helps to regulate mood, appetite and sleep. Serotonin is also associated with feelings of well-being and happiness, and contributes to some cognitive functions, like memory and learning.
Norepinephrine acts as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. As a stress hormone, norepinephrine affects those parts of the brain where focus and attention are controlled. It is also an underlying part of the "fight or flight" response to stress.
Depression brings with it many different symptoms. Mood disruptions, feelings of hopelessness or unworthiness, loss of interest in activities that once brought you happiness, disruptions in sleeping and/or eating patterns, loss of energy, loss of concentration and suicidal thoughts or behaviors are all part of the overall picture of depression.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is diagnosed when a patient experiences excessive anxiety or worry for at least six months. This is exhibited by restlessness, low energy, difficulty concentrating on anything, listlessness, irritability, tense muscles and disturbances in sleep.
Panic disorder is a syndrome where the patient repeatedly experiences unexpected, sudden, intense episodes of fear. This manifests with physical symptoms, including chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, heart palpitations, nausea and shaking.
Social anxiety is fear that comes with a sense that the individual is being judged by those around him. Blushing, nausea, sweating, shaking and difficulty speaking are all symptoms.
If your medical professional prescribes Effexor, either alone or in conjunction with another drug, you can expect to see some improvement in your sleeping patterns, energy levels and/or appetite in the first one to two weeks. These improvements are notable, because they serve as early indicators that the drug is working.
It may take as many as six to eight weeks to see full improvement in your depressed mood or interest levels in your activities. This is not uncommon with antidepressants.
During this period it can be beneficial to seek psychotherapy as an adjunct to prescription therapy. You may feel some relief in talking with a professional, and you can learn some ways to manage your depression and your anxiety.
One of the most common types of side effect of Effexor is some degree of sexual dysfunction, including problems with orgasm or ejaculatory delay. Increased blood pressure is another side effect. Neither of these are likely to improve over time.
Other side effects are rare, including increase in heart rate, low blood pressure, irregular menstrual cycles, changes in taste, increased frequency of urination, difficulty urinating, increased bleeding, low sodium or teeth grinding. Serious side effects include serotonin syndrome or gastrointestinal bleeding.
Sources: National Alliance for Mental Illness
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