Types of Antidepressants: SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs and More

If you struggle with depression, your doctor might prescribe you an antidepressant to manage your symptoms and help you live a more well-balanced life. Though these drugs are not the only remedy for coping with depression, they have allowed millions of people to find relief and enjoyment in their day-to-day lives. What kinds of antidepressants are there, how do they work – and how can you find one that’s right for you?

What to Know About Various Antidepressants

Depression is a complex disorder, but medical researchers have learned that one of its several possible causes is an imbalance of mood-affecting chemicals in the brain – especially dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Most antidepressants relieve depression by acting on these neurotransmitters in slightly different ways.

Many types of antidepressants are currently available to treat depression, including the following.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): When treating depression, doctors often initially prescribe an SSRI, because these medications usually come with fewer side effects and are less likely than other types of antidepressants to cause complications when taken at higher doses. Brand-name drugs in this class include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and Lexapro. 
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): Because they influence both serotonin and norepinephrine, you may also hear these drugs called dual-acting antidepressants. Your doctor may prescribe you an SNRI if treatment with an SSRI didn’t work well for you. Examples of SNRI medications include Cymbalta, Effexor XR, Pristiq and Fetzima.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Doctors may prescribe MAOIs when other medications haven’t worked. However, be aware that drugs in this class can have severe side effects, including dangerous interactions with specific foods and some medications and herbal supplements. Emsam, an MAOI that you wear as a patch, may cause fewer dietary side effects than other drugs in this category.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Medications in this class tend to lead to more side effects than the other drugs on this list. Your doctor will probably be hesitant to prescribe a tricyclic antidepressant unless you’ve already tried other types of antidepressants without experiencing a notable improvement.
  • Atypical antidepressants: These medications don’t quite fit into any of the other antidepressant categories. Frequently prescribed antidepressants in this class include Trintellix and Wellbutrin – the latter of which is one of the rare antidepressants with few known sexual side effects.

Finding the Right Antidepressant   

It may take you and your doctor some trial and error to find the medication – or combination thereof – that works best for you. The first thing to do is to talk to your physician or therapist about the symptoms you’re experiencing. For example, if you have insomnia on top of your depression, you may wish to try an antidepressant with a mild sedative effect. Here are some other things you’ll need to consider.

  • Drug interactions: If you currently take any other medications, be sure to let your doctor know. Some medications can have serious side effects when taken in combination with each other.
  • Your health history: Be honest with your physician about any other mental or physical health conditions you have or have had in the past.
  • Major side effects: Side effects of antidepressants differ, depending on the medication and the person taking it. Unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth, weight gain or decreased sex drive, can make you want to discontinue taking your medication, even if it is helping with your depression. Discuss possible significant side effects with your prescribing physician or pharmacist, and never stop taking antidepressants without talking with your doctor first. Abruptly quitting some drugs may result in withdrawal symptoms and the return of your depression.

Achieving Freedom From Depression

If you are living with depression, there is hope. At Serene Behavioral Health, we can help you get back on the path to improved mental well-being and quality of life. Call us today to learn more about your personalized treatment program.

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