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Depression & Anxiety Treatments

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

The class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a gold standard for managing certain mental health conditions. Widely prescribed and extensively studied, SSRIs can play a crucial role in managing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other related conditions. This blog post will provide an overview of SSRIs, exploring what they are, how they work, their uses, and considerations for use.
What Are SSRIs?
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of medications primarily used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. They work by acting on serotonin, a chemical messenger  (neurotransmitter) between brain cells. SSRIs work by blocking the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin into the brain neurons. Preventing reabsorption into the neurons increases the availability of serotonin in the brain, which can help improve the chemical messaging between neurons. Serotonin is involved in regulating mood, emotions, sleep, appetite and behavior. In individuals with depression or anxiety disorders, there may be imbalances or deficiencies in serotonin levels. By increasing the available levels of serotonin, SSRIs can help improve mood and ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Common SSRIs include:
–       Citalopram (Celexa)
–       Escitalopram (Lexapro)
–       Fluoxetine (Prozac)
–       Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
–       Sertraline (Zoloft)
Uses of SSRIs:
SSRIs are primarily prescribed for the treatment of:
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): SSRIs are considered first-line treatment options for depression, helping to reduce symptoms such as persistent sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.

Read our blog about Bipolar Disorder & Depression
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): SSRIs can also be highly effective in treating anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Other Conditions: In addition to depression and anxiety disorders, SSRIs may be prescribed for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Considerations for Use:
Individual Response: While SSRIs are effective for many individuals, not everyone responds to these medications in the same way. It may take several weeks or months, typically 4-6 weeks, to experience the full effects. Some individuals may require multiple dose adjustments or trials of different SSRIs to find the best fit for them.
Efficacy: SSRIs have been extensively studied and are considered effective in treating depression and various anxiety disorders, often providing significant improvements in symptoms.
Safety: SSRIs are generally well-tolerated and are relatively safe to use when taken as prescribed and monitored by a medical professional.
Side Effects: SSRIs work similarly so can cause similar side effects, though people who cannot tolerate one type of SSRI may be able to tolerate a different kind. Common side effects of SSRIs may include nausea, headache, insomnia, sexual issues such as reduced sexual desire, difficulty reaching orgasm or inability to maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction), and weight gain.
Drug Interactions: SSRIs can interact with other medications, including over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications, and herbal supplements. It’s important to inform your healthcare provider about all medications and supplements you are taking to avoid potential interactions.
Discontinuation: Abruptly stopping SSRIs can sometimes lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms. It’s important to gradually discontinue some of these medications under the guidance of a healthcare provider to minimize the risk of withdrawal effects.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are a widely prescribed class of medications that play a vital role in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, and other related conditions. SSRIs help increase serotonin levels in the brain, leading to improvements in mood and overall well-being. While SSRIs are generally safe and effective, it’s very important to work closely with a healthcare provider to monitor for safety and efficacy, address any side effects or concerns, and develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to individual needs.

2)    Chu A, Wadhwa R. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. [Updated 2023 May 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from:

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