What are the Different Types of Antidepressant Drugs?

Karize Uy
Karize Uy
An antidepressant.
An antidepressant.

The common types of antidepressant drugs can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), tricyclics, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI). All these types of antidepressants work by interacting with some biochemicals in the body that are said to affect a person’s mood. All types can also cause common side effects such as nausea, sleeping problems, and fatigue.

Serotonin is a chemical known as the “happy hormone” because it produces a feeling of happiness.
Serotonin is a chemical known as the “happy hormone” because it produces a feeling of happiness.

The most standard type of antidepressant drugs is the SSRI. Serotonin is a chemical known as the “happy hormone” because it produces a feeling of happiness. A lack of serotonin in the body occurs when neuro-receptors reabsorb or “reuptake” the serotonin, which can result in depression. The SSRI prevents the reuptake of serotonin and provides adequate amounts of the chemical. Common drugs under the classification of SSRI include fluoxetine, sertraline, and escitalopram.

Tricyclics are another type of antidepressant drugs prevalent since the 1950s. This type of antidepressants works on the reuptake of both norepinephrine and serotonin. Tricyclics can particularly be very lethal when taken in large doses, causing drastic increases in heart rate. In spite of their effectiveness, tricyclic antidepressants are used less often because of the wide availability of safer medication. Examples of tricyclics are imipranime, nortriptyline, and amitriptyline.

Another type of antidepressant medication similar to tricyclics is SNRI. As its name suggests, SNRIs also block the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. A patient may have symptoms of withdrawal if medication is abruptly discontinued, so doctors recommend a gradual decrease of dosage. Antidepressant medications under the SNRI category are venlafaxine, milnacipran, duloxetine, and desvenlafaxine.

Doctors can prescribe another type of antidepressant drugs called MAOIs if the other types do not take effect. MAOIs have a large potential to be dangerous, which is why physicians usually do not prescribe them as a first course of treatment. These antidepressants function by interacting with three biochemicals: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Antidepressants that are considered MAOIs are phenelzine, isocarboxazid, and selegiline.

All antidepressant drugs can possibly produce some undesirable side effects, which is why many people turn to alternative antidepressants such as herbs. St. John’s Wort is said to be one of the most effective and well-researched forms of alternative medication and other herbal antidepressants include lavender, saffron, and wormwood. Traditional medicine such as Ayurveda and acupuncture are also said to help depression and anxiety. A more natural medication is the intake of omega-3, vitamin B-12, and folic acid. Regular exercise can also help decrease depression as it releases endorphins, another hormone associated with feelings of pleasure.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - To some extent I think that's a good idea, but I do think it needs to be decided with the help of a decent psychiatrist. I just don't think that most people are equipped to know where the line is between depression and chronic depression. It's so easy, when you're depressed, to think of it as an immovable state. Dealing with depression is never as simple as deciding to not have it any longer partly because it's not an easy thing to diagnose from the inside.

A trusted doctor will be able to help you there, but do make sure they aren't prescribing you the drugs to meet some kind of quota. I hate to be cynical, but I do think that depression medication gets prescribed far too often.


@KoiwiGal - I think I've always been on the edge of needing drugs for depression, but I've never actually taken them. I do think that people should have them if they need them, of course, but I've valued the struggle without them. I've gradually learned how to prevent and dispel my depression, through meditation and healthy living, as well as controlling other aspects of my life.

But if it comes to a time when those methods are no longer working, I think I am brave enough to try and take the drugs. I don't consider them to be a sign of failure, but I do prefer them to be a last resort.


I read a really good article about taking medication for depression recently which had an important message. A lot of people seem to think that if they go on medication they will no longer be themselves, as though their normal self is the one which feels constantly out of control, or completely dead inside.

This article argued that the drugs actually help you to be your normal self, by regulating the chemicals in your head that should be working normally, but for whatever reason are having trouble.

If the drugs are making you feel worse, then you have to find new and more suitable drugs. Because no one should have to suffer through depression without help and depression drugs can get you that help so that you can become yourself again.

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    • An antidepressant.
      By: Andrew S.
      An antidepressant.
    • Serotonin is a chemical known as the “happy hormone” because it produces a feeling of happiness.
      By: snyggg.de
      Serotonin is a chemical known as the “happy hormone” because it produces a feeling of happiness.