Antidepressants: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

medication

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. They can ease symptoms of moderate to severe depression, are relatively safe and typically cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants do.

SSRIs are prescribed to treat[1]:

  • Depression
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Severe phobias
  • Bulimia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The Mayo Clinic[2] explains SSRIs can ease depression by impacting chemical messengers -neurotransmitters - used to communicate between brain cells. Similar to other types of antidepressants, SSRIS work by causing changes in brain chemistry and how brain cells communicate in ways which regulate mood, to help relieve depression. SSRIs block the absorption or reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin, increasing the levels of this neurotransmitters in the brain.

Examples include (brand name italicized):

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Vilazodone (Viibryd)

Side Effects [2]:

Common:

  • feeling agitated, shaky or anxious
  • feeling or being sick
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • low sex drive
  • difficulty achieving orgasm during sex or masturbation
  • in men, difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)

Less Common:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Confusion
  • Movement problems, such as stiffness or shaking
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't real (hallucinations)
  • Being unable to pass urine

[1] National Health Services. “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).” NHS Choices, NHS, 20 Nov. 2015, www.nhs.uk/conditions/SSRIs-(selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitors)/Pages/Introduction.aspx.

[2] Mayo Clinic Staff. “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 June 2016, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/ssris/art-20044825.

Treatment & Resources