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How SSRI antidepressants work

Posted Apr 02 2009 12:53pm
We continue listing different types of antidepressants. If you missed the preface, I'd strongly recommend you to read it here: PART 1, 2, 3


" What are the SSRI's used for ?

SSRIs are antidepressants which are used to help to improve mood in people who are feeling low or depressed. Fluoxetine ("Prozac") may also be used to help treat the eating disorder "Bulimia nervosa". In addition to this, the SSRIs are now widely used to help a variety of other symptoms. These include anxiety (where a lower starting dose often helps), social phobia and social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic, pre-menstrual syndrome and agoraphobia. Some drugs are "licensed" (ie officially approved) for some of these conditions (e.g. paroxetine for social phobia) but this does not necessarily mean the others do not help, just one manufacturer can prove it and has applied for a licence.
Trazodone ("Molipaxin") and nefazodone ("Dutonin") are not strictly pure "SSRIs" but have many of the same effects and so are included in this group for convenience.
The SSRIs are now one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants but there are many other similar drugs. All these antidepressants seem to be equally effective at the proper dose but have different side effects to each other. Apart from nausea, the SSRIs generally have less side effects than the older drugs. If one drug does not suit you, it may be possible to try another. Starting with a lower dose for a week or so may also help the drugs to be more tolerable or have less side effects.

How do the SSRI's work ?
The brains has many naturally occurring chemical messengers. One of these are called serotonin (sometimes called 5-HT) and is important in the areas of the brain that control mood and thinking. It is known that this serotonin is not as effective or active as normal in the brain when someone is feeling depressed. The SSRI antidepressants increase the amount of this serotonin chemical messenger in the brain. This can help correct the lack of action of serotonin and help to improve mood."

"Reduced" nerve activity but with recycling blocked, and increased messages passes:


SSRI antidepressants mainly block the reuptake of just serotonin. This why they are called the SSRIs ie. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.
Many other antidepressant drugs also affect other transmitter systems e.g. acetylcholine, dopamine, histamine etc. and have many side effects. SSRIs really only block the reuptake of serotonin, and so have less side effects. However, they still have some side effects ;-
- Too much serotonin in some parts of the brain can make you feel sick, less hungry and get headaches or migraines.


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