If you’re not familiar with the options available for depression treatment, you might not be aware that not all antidepressant prescriptions are the same. In fact, there are several different classes of antidepressant medications and within those groupings, many individual options.
It can be helpful to have at least a general understanding of what the different types of pharmaceutical antidepressants are, if you are someone who suffers from symptoms of depression, or you have a loved one who does.
The following provides a brief overview.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs are one of the most well-known and commonly prescribed types of antidepressants. When doctors are creating treatment plans for patients, this is usually the pharmaceutical option they’ll go to first, because this class of antidepressants has the fewest side effects in most people.
Some SSRIs include citalopram, sertraline, and fluoxetine. Brand names include Prozac, Paxil, Celexa and Zoloft.
As mentioned, side effects are somewhat minimal and mild with SSRIs and may include headaches, dry mouth, nausea, and restlessness. Sleeping and sexual problems may also occur with SSRIs.
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
SNRIs are another type of antidepressant, and these hit the market after SSRIs. These affect serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, and one of the primary benefits of this class of antidepressants is the fact that they have the fewest interactions with other drugs.
Some well-known brand name SNRIs include Cymbalta and Effexor.
This class of antidepressants works by blocking the absorption of serotonin and norepinephrine.
Some of the side effects of SNRIs can include appetite loss, anxiety, and nervousness, headaches, and nausea.
Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors (NDRIs)
NDRIs are another version of reuptake inhibitors, but there’s only one drug that makes up this class, and that’s bupropion, which available under the brand name Wellbutrin. NDRIs are also called atypical antidepressants, and Wellbutrin is often prescribed to people who have other health issues in addition to depression.
For example, Wellbutrin may be given to patients who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or a drug dependence. The sexual side effects with Wellbutrin tend to be lesser than with other antidepressants, but some other side effects may include agitation and sleep problems.
Unlike options like SNRIs which affect two brain chemicals, tricyclic antidepressants impact three brain chemicals which are serotonin, norepinephrine and also dopamine. Tricyclic antidepressants are one of the oldest of all the antidepressants, but they have a high risk of side effects, so they’ve fallen out of favor, and they also shouldn’t be used in older patients.
Some of the common side effects can include blurry vision, dry mouth, constipation, urination problems, fatigue and impaired thinking. Tricyclic antidepressants can also have an effect on vital functions like heart rate and blood pressure.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Finally, MAOIs affect a brain enzyme which is called monoamine, and with most patients, this type of antidepressant is the last one tried when other options haven’t worked because the side effects can be severe. Along with severe side effects, MAOIs tend to have problematic interactions with a wide variety of other drugs as well as certain foods, and they can cause serotonin syndrome.