May 01, 2021

Why was I prescribed an antidepressant if I'm not depressed?

Q: My wife was just prescribed Cymbalta for her fibromyalgia. I saw it was an antidepressant. Is it OK for her to take an antidepressant if she's not depressed?

A: Antidepressants are often prescribed for a variety of conditions other than depression. Some of these uses are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — and in your wife's case, duloxetine (Cymbalta) is an antidepressant that is FDA approved to treat fibromyalgia. Doctors can also legally prescribe medications off-label. This term is used when a drug has scientific evidence to support its use for a condition but is not specifically FDA-approved for that condition, at that dose or in that form.

Antidepressants can improve symptoms of depression by affecting certain chemicals in your body — particularly serotonin (ser-o-TOE-nin), norepinephrine (nor-ep-ih-NEF-rin) and dopamine (DOE-puh-meen). It's often unclear how these drugs help relieve other conditions, but the effects are likely related to changing these same chemicals in the body.

Sometimes people with one condition — such as chronic pain — may also be depressed; antidepressants can sometimes help with both. However, antidepressants come with potential risks, and determining the appropriate drug and dose for your situation typically requires closely working with your health care provider.

Antidepressants To Treat Conditions Other Than Depression