There are several different types of antidepressants that one can use to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Listed below are some of the most common types, along with a breakdown of how they work:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (or SSRIs for short) are the most popular antidepressant medication on the market. Some examples of SSRIs include sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac), and citalopram (Celexa).
According to this report published by Stat Pearls, SSRIs help to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical messenger that plays a key role in mood regulation.
Serotonin–Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Another popular type of antidepressant is Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (or SNRIs for short). SNRIs influence the levels of serotonin in the brain, like SSRIs, but they also have an impact on levels of norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine acts as both a neurotransmitter and a stress hormone. It plays a key role in memory formation, concentration, and focus. For those whose depression symptoms cause difficulty focusing and staying alert, an SNRI may be a better choice than an SSRI.
Examples of frequently prescribed SNRIs include duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor).
SSRIs and SNRIs are the two most commonly used types of antidepressants. For those who don’t respond well to these medications, though, there are other options, including atypical antidepressants.
Atypical antidepressants are antidepressants that don’t fit into other classes, such as SNRI or SSRI. Despite not fitting into a neat box, these medications still target neurotransmitters and help to regulate mood and brain chemistry. Some examples of atypical antidepressants include bupropion (Wellbutrin) and vortioxetine (Trintellix).
Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
Tricyclic antidepressants (or TCAs) are a less common, older type of antidepressant. They work by increasing norepinephrine and serotonin levels, by they also block the action of another neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine.
This study published in Current Opinion in Neurobiology reveals that high levels of acetylcholine have been linked to increased rates of depression and anxiety in some individuals. By lowering these neurotransmitter levels while also increasing serotonin and norepinephrine availability, some people have found significant relief from their depression symptoms.
Examples of tricyclic antidepressants include amitriptyline (Elavil) and clomipramine (Anafranil).
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (or MAOIs) are another type of older antidepressant.
These antidepressants inhibit an enzyme known as monoamine oxidase, which has been shown to decrease levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. By blocking this enzyme, people struggling with depression can experience higher levels of the neurotransmitters that support their mood and minimize their symptoms.
Examples of MAOIs include rasagiline (Azilect) and selegiline (Eldepryl).