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What Parents Should Know About Antidepressants for Teens

a parent, child, and provider discuss antidepressants for teens

When your teen struggles with their mental health, you want to help. Watching them as they experience anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues can be difficult and overwhelming. As a parent, it’s natural to want to fix the problem and make everything better for your child. There may not be a quick fix, though. Sustainable progress is possible, and providers may prescribe antidepressants for teens with some conditions.

Family First provides therapy and medication management for teens 13–18. with more than 120 years of combined clinical experience, our team knows that medication can provide tremendous relief but should not be the only form of treatment. Find the right mix of therapies for your teen by calling 888.904.5947.

Why Are Teens Prescribed Antidepressants?

Doctors may prescribe antidepressants to teens living with depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These medications help balance brain chemistry to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and ease other symptoms. Antidepressants are usually not the first course of action when it comes to treating teen mental health issues. Instead, therapy and lifestyle changes are often recommended as initial steps.

However, for some teens, therapy alone may not be enough to alleviate their symptoms. In these cases, antidepressants can be a helpful tool in conjunction with therapy.

Which Antidepressants Are Safe for Teens?

Some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) have been FDA-approved for use in treating children’s mental health.1


By interacting with serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood regulation, these medications can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Teens may be prescribed:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

SSRIs help increase the availability of serotonin in the brain, helping relieve mental health symptoms.


These medications work by increasing levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation. SNRIs prescribed for teens may include:

  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

SNRIs are often not prescribed unless an SSRI is ineffective or causes side effects.

Risks and Benefits of Antidepressants

As with any medication, there are risks and benefits to consider when it comes to prescribing antidepressants for teens. Some potential benefits include:

  • Improvement in mood and reduction of symptoms such as anxiety or depression.
  • Increased effectiveness of therapy.
  • Relief from severe and persistent symptoms that may not respond well to therapy alone.

Severe mental health symptoms are challenging to deal with, even more so when they affect teens. They likely haven’t developed the coping skills and resilience that adults have, making it even more vital to address their symptoms as soon as possible.

Managing Risks

While antidepressants can provide significant relief for some teens, there are also potential risks involved. These can include:

  • Side effects such as headaches, nausea, or changes in appetite.
  • Potential increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors in some individuals.
  • Risk of dependence and difficulty stopping the medication once it is no longer needed.

It’s important to discuss these risks and benefits with a trusted medical professional and weigh them against the severity of your teen’s symptoms. Being open and honest during psychiatric check-ins is extremely important since prescriptions may need to be adjusted if they cause severe side effects like suicidal thoughts.

Medication Should Complement Therapy

Antidepressants should not be the only intervention used to treat teen mental health issues. Therapy should always be a part of the treatment plan, as it allows for additional tools and strategies to be learned and applied in daily life. Medications can help alleviate symptoms, but therapy can provide long-term coping skills and support for your teen’s mental health journey.

Family First offers medication management services for teens living with mental health conditions. We work closely with families and do not prescribe or adjust medication regimens without careful consideration and collaboration with guardians, clients, and psychiatric providers who work closely with clients. Teens in our care also receive therapy and engage in experiential activities to support their overall well-being.

Call Family First Adolescent Services Today

Making the decision to explore medication options for your teen’s mental health can be overwhelming and scary. At Family First, we understand this and are here to support you every step of the way. Our experienced team of professionals will work with you and your teen to create a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all aspects of their well-being. Call 888.904.5947 or contact us online to find the best way forward for your teen.


  1. Child Mind Institute – Medication for Kids With Depression