Four Major Types of Antidepressants

A person suffering from severe depression may find relief in taking antidepressant medications under the supervision of a mental health professional. Antidepressants act to stabilize the levels of natural chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.

The four primary antidepressants prescribed for depression, according to a feature in, are:

SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work on the brain chemical called serotonin. They are the commonly prescribed medications over the four types since, they have less adverse side effects. Effects include increase in suicidal thoughts, hostility, and anxiety. Increase in the risk of bone loss and fractures are common for patients 65 and older.  SSRIs are available as Prozac, Luvox, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Celexa.

Atypical Antidepressants target other neurotransmitters either alone or in addition to serotonin. Wellbutrin blocks the reabsorption of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Trazodone, Cymbalta, Effexor, and Remeron affect both norepinephrine and serotonin (which is why they are sometimes called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs). Side effects may vary such as nausea, dry mouth and blurred vision.

Tricyclic antidepressants work by inhibiting the brain’s reuptake or serotonin and norepinephrine. They also partially inhibit the reabsorption of dopamine. Because the tricyclics have such a broad mechanism of action, they tend to cause more side effects than the other classes of antidepressants. They may cause irregular heart rhythyms. These drugs include Elavil, Anafranil, Norpramin, Sinequan, Tofranil, Pamelor, Aventyl, Vivactil, and Surmontil.

MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors) are the oldest class of antidepressants. Mixed with food and medicines containing tyramine can cause abrupt rise in blood pressure, which may lead to stroke. MAOIs include Nardil, Parnate, Marplan, and Emsam.

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