Mental health issues like depression and anxiety can be debilitating for trans and nonbinary people. These issues can cause significant interference in an individual’s life. While there are many treatments that can help, including gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT, sometimes also called HRT or hormone replacement therapy), mental health medications are often a part of the treatment plan. Medications can help you to manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression, allowing you to gain better control of your mental health and your life.
However, many people have questions about how medications work and what type of medications are available. In this article, we will discuss what medications are used for anxiety and depression, how they work, potential side effects, and how you can determine if medications are right for you. With a better understanding of medication, you will be empowered to make informed decisions about your mental health.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What medications are used for anxiety and depression?
- How do medications for anxiety and depression work?
- Potential side effects of medications for mental health
- How medications for anxiety and depression can support you during your gender transition
- Making the decision to take medications for mental health
- Finding the right medications and doses
- Combining medications with other treatments such as gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT)
- Managing long-term mental health with medications
What medications are used for anxiety and depression?
There are a variety of different medications that can be used to treat anxiety and depression. The two most common types of medications for anxiety and depression are SSRIs and SNRIs. SSRIs are more commonly used for anxiety, while SNRIs are more commonly used for depression. For anxiety, there are also anxiolytic medications that are often used as a short-term intervention, as well as benzodiazepines and beta-blockers that are used for more severe cases. For depression, there are also other types of antidepressants that can be used in addition to or instead of SNRIs and SSRIs, such as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
How do medications for anxiety and depression work?
The goal of any medication is to produce a desired effect by interacting with specific receptors in the body. We don’t fully understand how different medications work, but we have a general knowledge of how they are supposed to affect the body.
Altering neurotransmitter levels: One of the most common theories about how medications for anxiety and depression work is that they affect neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that are important for brain function. Anxiety and depression can be linked to lower levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Medications are thought to help increase those levels.
Regulating hormones: Another way that some medications may work is by regulating hormones. Many people who experience anxiety and depression have lower than normal hormone levels. Medications such as gender-affirming hormones like estrogen and testosterone can help bring those levels back up to normal.
Potential side effects of medications for mental health
Every medication has side effects and potential risks that need to be taken into account. While medications can provide effective treatment for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
For many people, medications can help them to achieve better mental health and quality of life. However, there are a few potential side effects and risks to be aware of:
Weight gain: Some medications for anxiety and depression cause weight gain. In some people, this may be a result of eating more due to an increase in appetite (a side effect of some medications). Others may experience weight gain as a side effect of the medication itself. Knowing about this potential side effect of medication can help you be prepared.
Nausea: Nausea may be a result of side effects such as weight gain or changes in appetite. It may also happen due to the specific medications used, such as SSRIs. If you feel nauseous while taking a certain medication, talk to your Care Team or mental health provider. They may have suggestions to help the nausea.
How medications for anxiety and depression can support you during your gender transition
Taking medications is one part of an overall treatment plan for anxiety and depression. You may also use other tools to improve your mental health, such as therapy and self-care. Medications alone don’t solve mental health issues. They are a tool that can help you to manage your symptoms and gain better control over your mental health. They can also help you to make progress on your treatment plan for gender transition.
Depression and anxiety can make it difficult to make progress towards gender transition goals. It can also create a sense of low self-worth or make your gender dysphoria worse. Having a good mental health treatment plan can help you to overcome these obstacles and move forward with your transition.
During your transition, you can always talk to your Care Team if you want to change the dose or type of medications that you are taking. (If you’re a Plume Member, you can easily schedule an appointment through our secure app.) Remember, don’t make any changes to your medications without talking with your Care Team first. A sudden change in medication dose can have serious side effects. Even a change that seems small can have an impact on your mental health.
Making the decision to take medications for mental health
If you decide that medication is right for you, you and your Care Team will determine which medication is best, in addition to the dosage. Finding the right medication and the right dose can take time. Some people feel better after a few weeks, while others may take a few months to see results.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. What works for one person may not work for another. Finding the right treatment plan that works for you may mean trying a few medications until you find the one that works best for you. It is important to communicate with your Care Team about how you are feeling during this process. Your Care Team is here to help you find the right medication and dose for you.
Finding the right medications and doses
Finding the right medication can take time. You may have to try several medications until you find the one that works best for you. However, there are ways to make this process go a little more smoothly:
Find a therapist, counselor, or mental health specialist who can collaborate with your Care Team or other gender-affirming care provider. Having a mental health provider who is willing to work with your other providers can help to make sure that both parts of your treatment plan are moving along smoothly.
Be open and honest with your Care Team and mental health provider. If you are having side effects or you think a medication isn’t working, tell your Care Team. They can help you to find a better medication or a different dosage.
Stay in touch with your Care Team. It can be easy to forget to follow up, especially when you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Let them know how you are doing and ask for help if you need it.
Combining medications with other treatments such as gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT)
Many trans and nonbinary people use medications in combination with other treatments. Medications can be used in conjunction with other mental health treatments such as therapy, self-help practices, or other medications. For example, antidepressants are often used in combination with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). Other medications may be used in combination with antidepressants, such as atypical antipsychotics or mood stabilizers.
It is important to remember that each person is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Your mental health provider and your Care Team can help you to decide what medications are best for you. You may also experience mental health issues along with the natural changes that accompany hormone therapy. It is important to talk with your mental health provider about how these changes may affect your treatment plan.
Managing long-term mental health with medications
Many people are able to manage their mental health effectively by taking medications for a certain amount of time. Some people may only need medication for a few months, while others may need medication long term. It is important to remember that medications are not a permanent solution. Taking medication is like taking care of a garden: you may need to do regular maintenance to keep it in good shape. You need to regularly monitor your mental health symptoms and side effects, along with any changes in your life (such as having a new baby, going to school, or losing a job).
It is also important to remember that no two people react to medications in the same way. What works for one trans or nonbinary person may not work for another. This is why it is important to regularly check in with your Care Team. When you are taking medications, it is important to be mindful of possible side effects. With proper monitoring, medications can be used to help maintain long-term mental health. It is important to remember that mental health is a spectrum. Feeling your best is an important aspect of your gender-affirming health care.