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What Are the Benefits of Stimulants for Depression?

By Kathleen Howard
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Stimulant drugs are psychoactive medications used to stimulate the central nervous system and increase brain activity. While this is not one of the primary uses of stimulant drugs, many of these medications are beneficial when used for depression. Using stimulants for depression will increase a patient’s energy levels and prevent fatigue. This can help patients break out of severe bouts of depression and resume their daily activities. Stimulants can also be used to treat depression-related apathy and help patients regain their ability to concentrate.

Depression affects sufferers both physically and mentally. Physically, depression commonly causes excessive tiredness, weakness and low energy. Depressed individuals might find it difficult to get out of bed or lack the energy to carry out normal daily activities. Stimulants increase energy, reduce fatigue, and will make it very difficult to sleep unless the patient is physically tired. While most physicians do not regularly prescribe stimulants for depression, a stimulant can be used to help severely depressed patients break out of a rut.

Using stimulants for depression can also improve a patient’s mental outlook. In addition to causing fatigue, depression leaves many patients apathetic and unable to concentrate. A benefit of treating depression with stimulants is that it reduces mental lethargy. When using stimulants for depression, patients who were previously apathetic might become more interested and enthusiastic about activities they used to enjoy. Stimulants can also increase a patient’s attention span and make it easier to concentrate for prolonged periods of time.

As a patient becomes more energetic and interested in previously favored activities, his or her mood might also improve. Studies have backed this claim and found stimulants effective in improving overall wellbeing when used over short periods of time. The long-term benefits of using stimulants for depression have not been proven as of 2012.

Due to the potential side effects of using stimulants for depression, stimulants are not usually used as a long-term or primary treatment. Stimulants are typically used to improve bouts of severe depression and make a patient’s condition more manageable. Once the patient is in a better mental state, the individual might be weaned off the stimulant medication. The exception to this would be if a patient suffers from both depression and a neurological condition, such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In this case, stimulants might be used in combination with depression medication to address all of the patient’s symptoms.

An emotional support animal (ESA), however, is appropriate for both stimulant treatment and those with ADD and ADHD. Finding the right kind of ESA can help create the structure for those with ADD and ADHD, and be a source of comfort for those in stimulant treatment.

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Discussion Comments
By donasmrs — On Sep 19, 2013
Stimulants aren't good for all types of depression. They're best for depression that's accompanied by an attention deficiency. It can also be effective for treatment resistant depression -- depression that doesn't respond to other antidepressants.

I've personally benefited from stimulant medication. I have a history of attention deficiency. I've also been dealing with depression for the past several years and the medications I've tried haven't worked. Stimulant medication has been the only treatment that actually made a difference in my mood.

By fify — On Sep 18, 2013

@burcinc-- Stimulants are usually prescribed for conditions like attention deficiency. Some stimulants are beneficial for depression, but as you said, it can cause anxiety as a side effect.

Everyone reacts to stimulants a little differently. For some people, it works very well for depression and for others, it doesn't do anything. If someone has both anxiety and depression, it's probably not going to work well. Even if it helps with the depression symptoms, it will mostly likely make the anxiety worse.

By burcinc — On Sep 18, 2013

My doctor prescribed me a stimulant medication for depression. While I do have more energy and better mood, sometimes I feel nervous and anxious. Is this normal?

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