The Difference Between Antipsychotics and Antidepressants: What You Need to Know

Depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders—there are just a few forms of mental illness that can have a negative impact on the lives of the afflicted. But there is no shame in suffering from mental illness; it is a medical condition just like any other and the stigma surrounding mental illness is only a product of shaming social constructs.

Whether or not mental illness is caused by biology or environment has always been a hot topic of debate, but the majority of professionals in the contemporary medical community seem to agree that both contribute to psychological difficulties. The biological component, however, often holds the primary position as the cause of mental illness in the mainstream medical community and as such many of the treatments developed focus on the biological underpinnings of psychological disorders. Two of the main types of treatment are antipsychotics and antidepressants—and they are not interchangeable. Let’s take a close look at the difference between the two.

Antidepressants are used to treat depressive disorders (depression, anxiety etc.) and their main purpose is to lift a person’s mood. The most common type of antidepressant is the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) which increases levels of serotonin in the brain—serotonin is believed to cause feelings of happiness, peace and relaxation. Thus, antidepressants are medications that, at their nexus, are mood lifting.

Antipsychotics differ from antidepressants in that their primary purpose is to manage psychosis; that is, delusions, hallucinations and disordered thought that contribute to conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Antipsychotics work by blocking dopamine, the chemical in the brain that controls reward-driven learning. Higher levels of dopamine contribute to higher levels of extroversion and high risk behaviors and thus antipsychotics are, at their nexus, mood relaxants.

As with all pharmaceuticals, there is controversy with regard to whether or not antidepressants and antipsychotics are safe and effective. Both medications are known to have a variety of adverse side effects, from sexual to headaches to agitations. Here, however, it is interesting to note that many disorders treated with antidepressants (depression, anxiety etc.) are also effectively treated without medication, by way of methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or hypnotherapy. But disorders treated with antipsychotics are generally treated with antipsychotics; for example, people suffering from schizophrenia are not as receptive to non-pharmaceutical treatments.

If you are someone you know is struggling with mental illness, and need more information natural ways of healing, such as hypnotherapy, please visit or share your story on with us on our Facebook page.

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