Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/28/2022
If you’re dealing with depression, you have likely spent some time searching for possible treatment options and come across antidepressants.
These prescription medications are often suggested by healthcare professionals because they can be an effective way of treating depressive disorders.
That said, there are a number of different types of antidepressants on the market. Here are some of the most common.
The most popular use for antidepressants is, you guessed it, to treat depression. Which is a good thing considering that more than 21 million adults in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode during the previous year.
Symptoms and signs of depressioninclude sadness and anxiety, irritability, tiredness, weight gain or loss, sleep issues, appetite changes and more. Depression symptoms vary from person to person, as do the side effects they may experience when taking antidepressant medication.
Wondering what causes depression? It’s thought to be tied to low levels of certain neurotransmitters in your brain — aka, the things that transfer information between neurons.
Serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine are a few of the more commonly talked about neurotransmitters related to depression.
Antidepressants treat depression by increasing levels of some of these specific chemicals in our brains.
There are a few different types of antidepressants. The first antidepressant approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). But these have fallen out of favor as newer antidepressants have hit the market, namely because MAOIs tend to have strong side effects.
Tricyclic antidepressants are another type of medication that were once prescribed for the treatment of depression. Examples of tricyclic antidepressants include nortriptyline and amitriptyline. Like MAOIs, this type of antidepressant is prescribed less often.
But enough about the antidepressants that aren’t commonly prescribed — here are the ones that are common.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common type of antidepressant prescribed. This type of medication works by boosting levels of serotonin in your brain by preventing your brain cells from reabsorbing it.
Some of the most common SSRIs that are prescribed include:
You may experience some side effects when you start taking an SSRI medication. Some of the most common side effects include:
Low libido or other issues with sex drive
Another pretty popular class of antidepressants is called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Like an SSRI, SNRIs stop serotonin from being reabsorbed — plus, they prevent norepinephrine (another neurotransmitter) from being reabsorbed.
Venlafaxine and duloxetine are two common SNRIs that are used to treat depression.
Common side effects associated with SNRIs include:
Sexual side effects
Along with SSRIs and SNRIs, there is one other common antidepressant called bupropion (sold under the brand name Wellbutrin®) that’s sometimes prescribed. It is an atypical antidepressant, which means that it doesn’t fall under one of the main categories of antidepressants.
Antidepressants can work to reduce symptoms of all kinds of depression — including moderate depression or major depression (also called severe depression).
A systematic review from 2018 looked at people who suffer from major depressive disorder (MDD) and compared the effectiveness of a placebo versus 21 different antidepressants.
Every single one of the antidepressants was found to be more effective at treating MDD than the placebos.
With this, taking an antidepressant is clearly an option for treating your depression. And there are a number of different ones that are commonly prescribed.
Some people even have to try a few before they find the one that’s right for them and their depressive symptoms.
If you’d like to explore whether one of the most popular antidepressants could be a good fit for you, you should start by scheduling a consultation with a mental health professional. They’ll be able to review your depression symptoms, explain common side effects of antidepressants and suggest one that may work for you.
Once you begin antidepressant treatment, you can also check in with your healthcare professional to discuss things like bothersome side effects, if you think you may have treatment-resistant depression or any other issues you may be noticing.