A Comprehensive Guide to Different Types of Antidepressants

Types of Antidepressants

Antidepressant medications are commonly prescribed to help alleviate symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions. There are several classes of antidepressants, each with its own mechanisms of action and potential side effects. In this article, we will explore some of the main types of antidepressants available today.

1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are one of the most commonly prescribed classes of antidepressants. They work by increasing the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, in the brain. SSRIs selectively block the reuptake of serotonin, allowing it to remain in the synaptic gap between neurons for a longer period. This helps to improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression. Some commonly prescribed SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and escitalopram (Lexapro).

2. Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs are another class of antidepressants that work by blocking the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation. By increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters, SNRIs help to enhance mood and alleviate depressive symptoms. Examples of SNRIs include venlafaxine (Effexor), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).

3. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Tricyclic antidepressants were among the first antidepressant medications developed. While they are not as commonly prescribed today due to their side effect profile, TCAs can still be effective in treating depression. TCAs work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, similar to SNRIs. They also have anticholinergic effects, which can lead to side effects such as dry mouth, constipation, and drowsiness. Examples of TCAs include amitriptyline (Elavil) and nortriptyline (Pamelor).

4. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

MAOIs are an older class of antidepressants that are usually prescribed when other antidepressant options have been ineffective. MAOIs work by inhibiting the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which breaks down neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. By blocking this enzyme, MAOIs help to increase the levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain. MAOIs have significant dietary restrictions and can potentially interact with other medications, so they are typically prescribed with caution. Examples of MAOIs include phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate).

5. Atypical Antidepressants

Atypical antidepressants do not fit into the traditional classes mentioned above but are still effective in treating depression. These medications work through various mechanisms, often targeting different neurotransmitters or receptors in the brain. Some commonly used atypical antidepressants include bupropion (Wellbutrin), mirtazapine (Remeron), and trazodone (Desyrel).


Antidepressant medications play a crucial role in the management of depression and related mental health conditions. The choice of antidepressant depends on individual factors such as symptoms, medical history, and potential side effects. It is essential to work closely with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate type of antidepressant and dosage for your specific needs. Remember, antidepressants are most effective when used in conjunction with therapy and other forms of support.