Heidi works with top-rated life insurance carriers to bring her clients the highest quality protection at the most competitive prices. She is a wife, mom, and former school teacher, specializing in helping families. As parents, it's our responsibility to ensure our family is financially sound, regardless of what life brings. Her goal is to make the process of obtaining life insurance as simp...

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Written by Heidi Mertlich
Licensed Life Insurance Agent Heidi Mertlich

Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent Benji Carr

UPDATED: Jun 28, 2022

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It’s also incredibly common to apply for life insurance while taking an antidepressant. Often, those applications are approved.

Taking an antidepressant can directly impact the outcome of your life insurance application. It’s not just the medication itself, though. Underwriters (their job is to evaluate life insurance applications) are interested in the big picture.

Here’s what we mean: Insurance companies are in the business of assessing risk. If you are taking an antidepressant, you’ll be asked a number of questions (think: what, why, when, etc.) during the application process.

Life insurance premiums are based on how long the insurance company expects you to live. -Waterway Financial Group

Frankly, that could make anyone feel, well, depressed. But, it’s at the heart of how they assess an application.

The good news: There are always life insurance options available. Regularly, applicants taking antidepressants are approved for traditional (picture larger policy amounts) life insurance.

We’ll break down everything you need to know about antidepressants and life insurance, so you can purchase the best policy you qualify for.

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Antidepressants and Life Insurance 101

Antidepressant prescriptions are incredibly common in the United States.

One in six Americans take some kind of psychiatric drugs, usually antidepressants. – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

(Sources: Mayo Clinic, CDC)

While antidepressants are not a cure for depression (or other medical conditions), they can effectively treat symptoms. Almost all antidepressants work by targeting three neurotransmitters: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

There are six primary categories of antidepressants:

  1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – Usually the first type of antidepressant prescribed. Drugs include: Prozac, Selfemra, Paxil, Pexeva, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro. Generally, SSRIs have fewer side effects than other classes of antidepressants.
  2. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) – Examples: Cymbalta, Effexor XR, Pristiq, Khedezla, and Fetzima.
  3. Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) – For instance: Wellbutrin, Aplenzin, Forfivo XL.
  4. Atypical antidepressants – As the name implies, a somewhat ambiguous category of antidepressants. They don’t fit into another category: Oleptro, Remeron, Brintellix, and Viibryd. This class is often sedating and taken in the evening.
  5. Tricyclic antidepressants – Such as Tofranil, Pamelor, Surmontil, Norpramin,Vivactil. Known to cause more side effects than other classes. Usually prescribed only after SSRIs are tried initially.
  6. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) – Like Parnate, Nardil, Marplan, and Emsam. Typically not prescribed until other antidepressants are confirmed to be ineffective. Routinely, a strict diet must be adhered to when taking MAOIs due to the potential for serious interactions. They cannot be combined with SSRIs.

In addition to antidepressants, other medications (combination drug therapy) are often prescribed, either temporarily or long term, to comprehensively treat medical conditions.

Antidepressants Tips:

In order to have the highest chance of success with antidepressants, there are a number of steps you can take –

  1. Patience – antidepressants don’t work overnight. Often, it takes weeks or months for the medication to work effectively.
  2. Monitor side effects – again, we’re talking patience. Most side effects, including nausea, headaches, and insomnia, will dissipate eventually.
  3. Other options – it’s common for the first antidepressant you are prescribed to not have your desired outcome. Switching or augmenting a prescription happens all the time.
  4. Consistency – taking your medication at the right time and at the right dosage is crucial to its effectiveness.
  5. Check-in with your doctor – do not stop taking your prescription without speaking to your doctor first. Some antidepressants have significant side effects if you stop taking them abruptly.
  6. Talk it out – counseling, in addition to your antidepressant, has a higher success rate than only taking the antidepressant.
  7. Skip booze and drugs – while it can appear that alcohol or illicit drugs can lessen depressive symptoms, it’s not the case. Long term, your symptoms tend to worsen.

Anyone can get depressed, and depression can happen at any age and in any type of person. – Centers for Disease Control

Key Takeaways – closely collaborate with your doctor to find the prescription(s) that works best for you. Be diligent in taking the right amount of medication consistently. Focus on a healthy lifestyle and consider seeking counseling.

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Life Insurance and Antidepressants

There are seven things you need to know about how antidepressants can affect your life insurance application:

1. Type of Antidepressant

Each antidepressant comes with its own specific benefits and side effects. Underwriters will want to know what kind you take. For example, SSRIs usually have fewer side effects than MAOIs. Be prepared to communicate the following:

  • The specific antidepressant(s) you are prescribed
  • How long ago you were prescribed the antidepressant
  • What dosage do you take
  • How often do you take the antidepressant

2. Specific Diagnosis

Depression diagnoses come in different categories. Harvard Health describes the following as the most common:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (Clinical Depression) 
    • The term, depression, is most commonly associated with the disorder
    • All-consuming dark mood
    • Loss of interest in activities
    • Changes in appetite, sleep habits
    • Typically treated with medications and counseling
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder
    • Formally called: dysthymia
    • Low mood that has lasted for at least two years
    • Doesn’t usually reach the intensity of Major Depression Disorder
    • Often able to function on a daily basis, but feel joyless
  • Bipolar Disorder
    • Formally called: manic-depressive disease
    • Episode of depression
    • Periods of unusually high energy or activity
    • Manic symptoms include: grandiose ideas, decreased need for sleep
    • Manic periods are usually followed by a depressive episode
    • Medications prescribed tend to be different than for other types of depression
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
    • Emerges as days get shorter in fall and winter
    • It May occur as a result of changes in the body’s daily natural rhythms
    • The leading treatment is light therapy
    • Medication and counseling can also be effective

3. Symptoms

Life insurance companies will ask you what type of physical and emotional symptoms you are experiencing. Again, remember they are evaluating risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms include (typical with Clinical Depression):

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts or irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lack of energy
  • Weight change
  • Anxiety
  • Slowed thinking or body movements
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Unexplained physical symptoms, such as headaches or backaches

Do your symptoms affect your ability to function on a daily basis? For example, are you on disability or unable to work?

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4. Hospitalization?

You will be asked if it was ever necessary for you to be hospitalized as a result of your depression. Be prepared to answer:

  1. Have you ever required hospitalization? If so, what was the outcome?
  2. Were you ever admitted to the Emergency Room? If so, what was the outcome?
  3. Have you attempted suicide? If so, when and how many times?

5. Other medications?

In addition to your antidepressant, are there other medications you are prescribed? It’s common to be prescribed combination drug therapy. In fact, studies have shown that combination drug therapy is more successful in treating persistent depression than using a single drug:

A randomized, double-blind study has shown a greater remission in patients with major depression when combining the SSRI, fluoxetine, and desipramine than with either selective agent alone. -National Institutes of Health

Common medications prescribed in conjunction with antidepressants include:

  • Anti-anxiety medications or tranquilizers
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Lithium
  • Thyroid hormone

6. Other treatments?

While antidepressants are the most common form of treatment for depression, other treatments exist. You will be asked if you participate in:

  • Counseling
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
    • Behavior Therapy
    • Psychotherapy
  • ECT (electroconvulsive therapy)

7. Other diagnoses?

It’s common to be diagnosed with other conditions, in addition to depression. For example:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Proactively communicate your antidepressant history and current prescriptions in order to get the best life insurance rates. Keep in mind – life insurance companies can request Attending Physician Statements (APS) or access the Medical Information Bureau to review your medical history – so it’s important to always be honest.

You can get Life Insurance While Taking Antidepressants

According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, about 17.3 million American adults suffer from major depression every year.

Approximately 25% of cancer patients are depressed, and up to 75% of eating disorder sufferers may be struggling with depression. Experts have found stress and depression can increase the risk of a heart attack in people with cardiovascular disease by almost 50%.

However, underwriters are finding mild depression and anxiety don’t increase the risk of dying. In fact, the CDC reported that 11% of Americans older than 11 years of age take antidepressant medication. Antidepressants are not always associated with severe depression.

That’s why it’s crucial to partner with an independent life insurance agent. You will receive multiple quotes from multiple companies. Your best interests are at heart because an independent agent is not held captive to a particular carrier.

Remember – there are life insurance options available for people who take antidepressants. It happens all the time – and could make anyone breathe a sigh of relief.