Aims of the leaflet
This leaflet is for anyone who wants to know more about antidepressants. It
discusses how they work, why they are prescribed, their effects and side-effects,
and alternative treatments. If your questions are not answered in this leaflet, there
are some references and sources of further information at the end of this leaflet.
Where there are areas of disagreement, we have given references to other
publications which will allow you to look into these issues for yourself. These include
the effectiveness of antidepressants, problems when you stop taking them, and
how they compare with other treatments. At the time of writing, these references
were available free and in full on the Internet.
What are antidepressants?
Antidepressants are drugs that relieve the symptoms of depression. They were first
developed in the 1950s and have been used regularly since then. There are almost
thirty different kinds of antidepressants available today and there are four main
MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)
SNRIs (Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors)
NASSAs (Noradrenaline and Specific Serotoninergic Antidepressants)
How do they work?
We don't know for certain, but we think that antidepressants work by increasing the
activity of certain chemicals work in our brains called neurotransmitters. They pass
signals from one brain cell to another. The chemicals most involved in depression
are thought to be Serotonin and Noradrenaline.
What are antidepressants used for?
Moderate to severe depressive illness (Not mild depression).
Severe anxiety and panic attacks
Obsessive compulsive disorders
Post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you are not clear about why an antidepressant has been suggested for you, ask
Antidepressants: The Royal College of Psychiatrists...