What Do Antidepressants Look Like?

Antidepressants come in all different colors, shapes, sizes, and strengths, as well as in generic and name-brand offerings. Learn how to find out what antidepressant medications look like, and how to identify specific medications.

What do antidepressants look like? That’s a seemingly simple question with loads of possible answers.

There are several types of antidepressants on the market. They’re mostly formulated to help balance brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that affect mood.

Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are three neurotransmitters strongly linked to depression. Serotonin helps with sleep, appetite, and mood. Norepinephrine is linked to arousal, alertness and anxiety. Dopamine has an effect on how a person perceives reality.

Medications can address those imbalances, but the disease is far more complex than that. Genetics, trauma, the time of year (seasonal affective disorder), and other underlying health conditions can all factor into depression, too.

Out of multiple categories, each contains many options, frequently available in brand-name and generic versions as well as in varying strengths.

Types of Anitdepressants

Types of antidepressants include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These are more recent and usually what doctors prescribe first. They include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine ( Paxil, Paxeva),  Sertraline (Zoloft), Escitalopram (Lexapro) and Citalopram (Celexa)

They tend to have fewer side effects and work by blocking the reuptake (or reabsorption) of serotonin.

  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These include duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR), and inhibit serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). These tend to have more side effects so they aren’t so commonly prescribed unless other antidepressants have proven ineffective. Common tricyclic antidepressants are Amitriptyline, Amoxapine, Desipramine (Norpramin), Doxepin, Imipramine (Tofranil), Nortriptyline (Pamelor), Protriptyline, Trimipramine.

They affect serotonin and norepinephrine as well as acetylcholine (another neurotransmitter)

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These can have serious side effects so they are not a first resort. Dietary choices (certain cheeses or wines) and various medications (including SSRIs) and herbal supplements can cause dangerous side effects. Common MAOIs include tranylcypromine (Parnate) and isocarboxazid (Marplan).
  • Atypical antidepressants. These don’t fit into other antidepressant categories. Mirtazapine (Remeron) and bupropion (Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL) are considered atypical. Some drugs in this class are used for bipolar depression or depression that’s resisted treatment thus far.
  • Other options. Doctors may suggest combining antidepressants or adding other medications to boost the effectiveness of an antidepressant.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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