How Effective Is Methylphenidate for Depression?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2019
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Methylphenidate for depression is usually effective on a limited basis when the person under treatment has a few specific traits. Prescriptions of methylphenidate are typically written for depression that coincides with another diagnosed condition, such as bipolar disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is not often the first choice for treating depressive disorders alone. Due to the possible side effects of methylphenidate, mental health professionals often consider it a secondary alternative for patients with major depressive disorder that has proven resistant to other types of drug therapies. Uses of methylphenidate for depression alone are often not considered ideal choices in some doctors' professional opinions, and this stimulant drug is generally the most effective when combined with other therapeutic methods of treating depression.

The basic chemical make-up of methylphenidate causes it to act as a stimulant drug that can sometimes help minimize the episodes of manic behavior that accompany bipolar disorder. It can also help improve the depressed states that usually follow the mania in many sufferers. Methylphenidate is often reported to have mixed results when it is prescribed for unipolar cases of depression that do not include mania or noticeable mood swings. Some prescriptions of methylphenidate for depression can improve the mental lethargy and physical tiredness that frequently come with this condition, although some patients can be more susceptible to side effects of methylphenidate, such as insomnia and marked changes in appetite.


Some physicians also choose methylphenidate for depression as a treatment option for people diagnosed with ADHD accompanied by noticeable depressed moods. Methylphenidate can sometimes help increase levels of concentration and mental focus. It can also lessen hyperactivity in some cases, though this stimulant's effectiveness can often vary according to the frequency and severity of the hyperactive moods that usually characterize this disorder.

Many psychiatrists who prescribe methylphenidate for depression often do so along with a primary antidepressant drug that is more commonly used to treat unipolar depression. Examples include tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Medical researchers often report that these antidepressants work slightly differently according to variations in depression patient brain chemistry. Methylphenidate can be more effective at relieving some depression symptoms, depending on these brain chemistry differences, the severity of the existing depression, and the type of prescribed antidepressant. Arriving at the optimal combination of antidepressant and methylphenidate prescriptions is sometimes a matter of trial and error for some depression sufferers and their doctors.


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Post 4

I've been taking methylphenidate for the past month. I'm bipolar 2 so my doctor was cautious in prescribing this to me since I've never been diagnosed with ADHD. I didn't take it every day but on the days I did take it I felt better. I had more energy and was able to focus better. I was also a little happier than I had been in a long time. I wasn't expecting that.

Post 3

I remember that methylphenidate used to be a more popular choice for depression around the time I got out of med school. But now, doctors only prescribe it when depression is accompanied by ADD. This is mainly because methylphenidate is habit forming and people tend to abuse it.

Post 2

@simrin-- I used methylphenidate last year for depression. It worked, but the problem was that I built tolerance to it very quickly. Ever month, my doctor had to increase the dose for me to experience the antidepressant effects. After three months, we came to the conclusion that methylphenidate is not the right choice for me. I had reached the maximum daily dose by then and it was not working as well anymore.

I think people react to medications differently. Methylphenidate might work for you, it's definitely worth asking your doctor about. But if you can find something else that works for you, you will probably better off in the long term.

Post 1

I have chronic depression. My doctor has prescribed me a series of different antidepressants in the past three years and none of them have worked. I'm going to ask him about methylphenidate during my next check-up. If it really works for treatment resistant depression, then it should work for me.

Is anyone on methylphenidate right now? Has it worked for you? Are you experiencing any side effects?

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