Modafinil For Depression | What You MUST Know

Tomas Thorne

Last Updated: February 2, 2023

Modafinil For Depression

One of the more interesting findings we’ve found when digging through Modafinil studies and research?

The benefits of Modafinil for depression.

Of course, Modafinil has long been recognized as a powerful nootropic. Research has consistently found that Modafinil benefits cognitive functions and can lead to:

  • Heightened Focus
  • Increased Productivity
  • 12-14 Hours of Concentration
  • Increased Overall Cognition

Others have found the pharmaceutical drug to offer a wide variety of benefits. Some have used Modafinil for weight loss.

But could it also be an effective form of psychotherapy?

It appears so, and some mental health professionals have begun prescribing it as a complementary therapy for those struggling with depression.

In this article, we’ll give you everything you need to know about the mood-boosting effects of Modafinil,  what you need to know about Modafinil and depression, as well as information on Modafinil and anxiety.

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What is Modafinil?

Modafinil was originally designed as a wakefulness agent and it continues to be used primarily for that purpose [1]. Individuals with various sleep disorders that cause inadequate sleep use it to stay awake during the day. It’s typically prescribed to people that suffer from:

  • Narcolepsy
  • Shift work sleep disorder
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Modafinil has been found to be very effective for these uses [2].

Because it is so effective at keeping people awake and performing their best, it also began to be used in a bunch of contexts outside of sleep disorders. It’s been used in military contexts to keep personal awake [3], by astronauts on space missions [4], in business and tech startups [5], and even on Wall Street by stockbrokers [6]. These professionals have clearly noticed the incredible Modafinil benefits.

Researchers have also begun to recognize its nootropic effects as well. We’ve since found out that Modafinil has significant cognitive benefits, including for:

  • Memory. Studies have found that Modafinil improves working memory, spatial memory, and episodic memory [7, 8].
  • Focus and alertness. Several studies find that Modafinil provides insane focus and concentration [9, 10].
  • Cognitive function. Modafinil improves several aspects of cognitive function, like strategy, and planning for the future [11], reaction time, visual pattern recognition, spatial planning [7],  decision-making, [11], and visual processing [12].
  • Reduced fatigue. Modafinil keeps you feeling fresh and boosts energy levels [13].
  • Motivation for work. Modafinil improves your motivation to get work done [14].

Drepession Modafinil

Modafinil Side Effects and Safety

There are lots of Modafinil benefits… but what about Modafinil side effects?

Like any medication, Modafinil has some side effects that you should be aware of. Some of these are more common and less severe; others are less common but more severe.

The more common side effects (these affect usually about 17% of users or less) [15]:

Some of the more severe but much less common Modafinil side effects include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Sores
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (severe skin rashes)

You should be careful about Modafinil side effects and always make sure that you talk to your doctor before taking Modafinil.

Having said that, though, it’s important to note that Modafinil has been found to be considered safe and well-tolerated by virtually all research studies [2, 7, 8, 16, 17]. And, no one has ever died from Modafinil overdose [18, 19, 20, 21].

Modafinil For Depression | The Basics

Okay, so what about Modafinil for depression? Can it help?

Yes, but there’s some nuance here so let’s explain.

Understanding depression

Depression is actually a category of mood disorders and each of the conditions in this category is characterized by depressed mood. But the subtypes of depression differ from each other in various ways.

Some of the conditions that make up “Depression” include Major Depressive Disorder, Atypical Depression, Melancholic depression, Post-Partum Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), among others [22].

Treatment for depression

There are several different ways that we treat depression, including psychotherapies and pharmacological antidepressant medications (i.e. drugs).

Some of the major psychotherapies for depression include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Behavioral Activation Therapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy, and others [23]. Some of the major categories of antidepressants for depression include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), Tricyclic antidepressants, and others [24].

While these treatments can be effective [25], there is room for more effective treatments of depression, since up to 33% of individuals do not improve from standard treatments [26].

Modafinil for depression

Recently several studies have found that Modafinil could be really useful for reducing depression. There’s been mounting scientific evidence that the smart drug offers anti-depressant type benefits in certain situations.

For example, one study by researchers at Cambridge found that Modafinil offered benefits to participants suffering from depression when it was taken together with antidepressants. One of the lead researchers, Professor Barbara Sahakian, found that [27]:

“Modafinil has actions on a number of neurotransmitter systems. This may explain why adding it to traditional anti-depressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, has beneficial effects on the symptoms experienced by depressed patients.”

And that’s not all. There have been several studies that have found Modafinil can improve symptoms in individuals that have depression [28, 29, 30].

Furthermore, another researcher, Professor Cynthia Fu, concluded that [27]

“This is good news for individuals struggling to fight depression. Depression affects all aspects of life, leading to occupational and social disability at varying levels. It is particularly important that people receive effective treatment as the residual symptoms, e.g. fatigue, lack of concentration etc., can persist and have a negative impact on people’s lives.”

What she’s saying is that Modafinil might not just help the depression but also all the other symptoms that come with depression: sleepiness, an inability to concentrate, and so on.

Here’s what the research says on how Modafinil might help combat depression:

  • Depressive symptoms. Research shows that Modafinil can help boost mood and reduce depressive symptoms [29].
  • Fatigue and sleepiness. Modafinil has been found to reduce fatigue and excessive sleepiness in individuals with depression [29, 31, 32].
  • Improving cognition. Modafinil has been found to improve some of the negative cognitive effects of depression including focus, alertness, and reaction time [30].
  • Decision-making. People with depression often have impaired decision-making skills. Modafinil has been found to improve decision-making in people with depression [30].
  • Sexual function. Some individuals with depression experience sexual dysfunction like erectile dysfunction. In some cases, Modafinil has been found to result in improved sexual function [33].
  • Memory. Modafinil seems to improve working and episodic memory in people with depression [34].

Modafinil for other mood disorders

Modafinil hasn’t just been found to improve symptoms in individuals with major depressive disorder, but also a number of other mood disorders.

For example, it’s found to be useful for:

  • Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by both manic and depressive symptoms. Several studies have found that Modafinil can reduce depressive symptoms for individuals suffering from Bipolar disorder [35, 36].
  • Seasonal affective disorder: Seasonal affective disorder is an affective condition that is characterized by depressive symptoms in the winter months. Research suggests that Modafinil can be effective in treating symptoms from SAD [37].

What Others Are Saying?

Now that we’ve gone over the science, let’s dive into the anecdotal evidence and see what others around the Internet are saying. With a quick Google search, it’s easy to see that many have benefited from taking Modafinil for depression.

For example, one Reddit user says, [38]:

“As a person with depression, Modafinil has been an absolute God-send. This drug completely over rides the fatigue caused by depression. Basic daily tasks no longer feel like running a marathon! A mild stimulant with no potential for abuse is what I’ve been looking for my entire life.”

Another Reddit user offered similar sentiments about Modafinil’s off-label uses [38]:

“I got a prescription for it for depression. It’s an off-label use but not entirely unheard of. It’s fantastic, energy & mood lightening effects without all the shitty brain-numbing side effects other antidepressants gave me. It doesn’t make me feel like a zombie or like my brain is swimming in syrup. And I don’t have to addict myself to it then slowly taper off it over two months if I want to stop it. And if I lose my insurance or can’t afford the co-pay on time, I don’t get crippling, brain melting withdrawal for missing a dose. Modafinil is the only drug that has done me any good at all.”

There are dozens more plastered all over the Internet. Suffice to say, Modafinil there is good reason to believe that Modafinil can have a beneficial effect on people with depression.

An Effective Treatment for Atypical Depression

Modafinil may be an especially effective treatment for Atypical Depression.

Atypical depression is a subtype of major depressive disorder in which the patient sees an improved mood when experience positive events (in other types of depression, mood does not improve even when positive events occur). Atypical depression also often comes with excessive eating, oversleeping, and fatigue. It is one of the most difficult subtypes of depression to treat [39].

Modafinil has been examined as a treatment for atypical depression because it may address several of the symptoms of atypical depression, like sleepiness, lack of energy, and excessive eating.

There hasn’t been a ton of research on this, but what there is looks good.

In one study of 41 patients with atypical depression, Modafinil was provided as the only antidepressant therapy [40]. This was a randomized control trial, so participants were randomly assigned to either a treatment group (that got the Modafinil) or a control (placebo) group. The study took place over 12 weeks.

The study found that individuals in the Modafinil treatment group had significantly reduced depression scores. Not only that, but these participants also had significantly improved on their over-eating, and even seen some significant weight loss. It also made them less fatigued.

These results demonstrate that Modafinil can be effective for individuals suffering from this difficult form of depression.

Modafinil and Anxiety?

If Modafinil and depression go together, what about Modafinil for anxiety?

While Modafinil could be useful for depression, it’s likely not the best treatment for anxiety.

Modafinil has actually been found to increase anxiety in some cases—it’s one of the side effects.

In several studies, Modafinil at various doses has been associated with increases in anxiety and decreases in calmness [41, 42]. While these usually are not very large increases, it still suggests that using Modafinil for anxiety reduction is not a great idea.

Drepession Modafinil

Modafinil and Depression | The Verdict

Is Modafinil for depression — a wonder treatment?

Well, it certainly looks like it could be effective. The research is very clear that Modafinil helps both depressive symptoms as well as the other symptoms that come with depression—like fatigue, cognitive impairment, decision-making, and so on.

Modafinil for anxiety? Not so much. Since Modafinil may already cause anxiety, it doesn’t look promising as an anti-anxiety medication.

Of course, if you have depression, you’ll be best served by seeing a psychologist and getting professional treatment. But if that’s not working, Modafinil could be a useful adjuvant therapy to help get that extra bit closer to being depression-free.

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