I believe my daughter’s psychiatrist is going to be prescribing an antidepressant. What are the most important questions I should ask him about taking an antidepressant?

The first question to ask is whether your daughter needs an antidepressant or whether there are other treatments that are as effective as an antidepressant. For example, for mild depression, therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy is an effective alternative to antidepressant medication.

If your doctor tells you that antidepressant medication is the best treatment for your daughter, then ask your doctor which antidepressant medication he plans to prescribe. Inquire whether the antidepressant is Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for treating children your daughter’s age. In general, antidepressants that have FDA approval in children have demonstrated in studies to be effective and safe in treating children that have depression.

It is important to ask your doctor about the side effects of the antidepressant medication. This should include both common side effects and rare but serious side effects. Ask your doctor what you should do if your daughter develops any of these side effects. There is a box warning about antidepressants and suicidality in children. Ask your doctor to explain what this means and what you should do if your daughter makes any statements about wanting to hurt herself.

You should also ask your doctor if your daughter can take other medications when she is taking the antidepressant. Let your doctor know if your daughter is taking any over-the-counter medications because some of these medications can interact with antidepressants. For example, St. John’s Wort can cause serious side effects when added to some antidepressants.

Inquire about how long your daughter will need to take antidepressant medication. Often children are continued on antidepressant medication for about a year after their depression is improved.

Before you leave the office, ask your doctor for some reading material about the antidepressant medication. This will help you to become more familiar with the medication including its use, benefits, and side effects.

About the Doc

About the Doc

Dr. Wagner is the Marie B. Gale Centennial Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Dr. Wagner is an internationally recognized expert in the pharmacological treatment of childhood mood disorders.