What Do Antidepressants Do?


Quick Answer

Antidepressants are used to reduce the symptoms of depression. There are a range of different antidepressants, according to Mayo Clinic, and each of them works in a particular way to treat the symptoms of depression. Most of them work by affecting the neurotransmitters in the brain that are associated with depression, including dopamine and norepinephrine.

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Full Answer

The most common first-line of defense in battling depression is usually selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro and Zoloft are all SSRIs. These are generally tried first because they are associated with fewer side effects than other options, according to Mayo Clinic.

Another common type of antidepressant is serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs, such as Cymbalta, Fetzima and Effexor XR. Wellbutron, Forfivo XL and Aplenzin are norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors, or NDRIs. These are usually prescribed when the occurrence of sexual side effects is an issue.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs, like Nardil, Marplan and Parnate, are generally only prescribed for treating depression when other medications have failed to cause any improvement in a patient's condition. Because of the risks associated with MAOIs, including the possibility of severe or even fatal interactions between certain foods and MAOIs, physicians only use them as a last resort, according to Mayo Clinic.

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