Home > Health Library > Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for Depression
SSRIs are newer (second-generation) antidepressants that
generally have fewer side effects than older (first-generation) antidepressants
tricyclic antidepressants and
monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Other second-generation antidepressants include
bupropion (Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR) and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
depression result when certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) get out of balance. Selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) help symptoms of depression by increasing
the amount of serotonin available.
SSRIs work as well for depression as
other types of antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants, but they
have different and often less severe side effects.
SSRIs relieve depression in most
people who take them. They have become one of the first medicines used for
depression because they work and have few side effects.
may help with anxiety and
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
FDA advisories. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
Never suddenly stop taking antidepressants. The use of any
antidepressant should be tapered off slowly and only under the supervision of a
doctor. Abruptly stopping antidepressant medicine can cause negative side
effects or a relapse into depression.
SSRIs can be safer than tricyclic or tetracyclic
antidepressants, because they do not cause death if taken in large quantities
(overdose). SSRIs usually are well tolerated and effective. SSRIs also may be
safer for older adults, because the side effects are more tolerable.
People with liver
disease usually require lower doses of SSRIs.
Studies have found
daily use of SSRIs may increase the risk of bone fracture in adults over age
50. Talk to your doctor about this risk before taking an SSRI.
bleeding more likely in the upper gastrointestinal tract (stomach and
esophagus). Taking SSRIs with NSAIDs (such as Aleve or Advil) makes bleeding
even more likely. Taking medicines that control acid in the stomach may
SSRIs are also used to
treat depression. SSRIs alone are not commonly used if you have episodes of
mania, such as in
Sexual dysfunction can be a
significant problem for some people while taking an SSRI. A medicine such as
sildenafil (Viagra) may help both men
and women who have sexual problems caused by SSRIs.2, 3
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Women who take an SSRI during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of taking an SSRI against the risks of not treating your depression.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Abajo FJ, Garcia-Rodriguez LA (2008). Risk of upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding associated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and venlafaxine therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 65(7): 795–803.
Nurnberg HG, et al. (2003). Treatment of antidepressant-associated sexual dysfunction with sildenafil. JAMA, 289(1): 56–64.
Nurnberg GH, et al. (2008). Sildenafil treatment of women with antidepressant-associated sexual dysfunction: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 300(4): 395–404.
Current as of:
January 11, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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