These medications improve symptoms of depression by affecting the brain chemicals associated with emotion, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are newer antidepressants that have fewer side effects than older drugs, but no medication is entirely free of side effects.
One antidepressant (Bupropion) affects mostly the brain chemical dopamine and thus forms a category of its own. Meanwhile, older types of antidepressants, including tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), may be prescribed by a mental health professional if newer medications do not seem to be effective. MAOIs are the least-prescribed of all antidepressants because they can cause dangerously high blood pressure when combined with certain foods or medications. People taking MAOIs must watch their diets carefully to avoid potentially life-threatening complications.
Some antidepressants may be useful for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) but may require higher doses. Symptoms of depression that are part of a bipolar disorder need more careful assessment because antidepressants may worsen the risk of mania and provide little relief from depressive symptoms.
These medication fact sheets were created by SMI Adviser content partners and approved by the SMI Adviser clinical expert team for inclusion in the knowledge base.