4 of the Best SSRI Medications for Treating Depression

WRITTEN BY MODERN RECOVERY EDITORIAL TEAM

NOVEMBER 10, 2022

4 of the Best SSRI Medications for Treating Depression

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Depression is a condition causing ongoing emotions that can feel overwhelming. People who are depressed feel sad, empty, and without joy. This is different from the everyday ups and downs that everyone feels. Instead, depression is a regular and underlying part of each moment.

For people with this condition, having a treatment plan is crucial to healing. Successful plans typically include a combination of the following:

  • Antidepressant medications
  • Psychological counseling (individual and group therapy)
  • Supplements
  • Specific food choices
  • Homeopathic options

Knowing the best medicine to include will help the patient manage their symptoms. Then they can move forward into a fulfilled life. Doctors determine the best option on an individual basis.

All medications should be taken as prescribed. Patients should not stop or start a medicine without discussing it with their doctor.

Categories of Antidepressants

Antidepressants are categorized by their effect on specific neurotransmitters. The most common classifications are:

  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
  • SNRIs (selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)
  • MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Atypical antidepressants

SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)

SSRI drugs are designed to impact the body’s serotonin level. Serotonin is vital in multiple body functions, including mood and energy level. When serotonin is off balance, it changes how a person manages life’s stresses.

The role of the SSRI drug is to moderate serotonin neurotransmitters. In this way, depression can be managed, and a patient may function fully in their life.

There are many SSRI medications available. Doctors will prescribe the best medicine individually, according to the patient’s needs.

Examples of 4 of the best SSRI medicines for depression are:

  1. Citalopram (Celexa)
  2. Sertraline (Zoloft)
  3. Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  4. Paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR)

Citalopram (Celexa)

Citalopram is a medication prescribed by doctors. It is also sold under its brand name, Celexa. This medicine is an SSRI antidepressant. It is used as a treatment for depression and major depressive disorder.

Citalopram should always be taken as instructed, without interruption. It may take up to a month to see improvement in symptoms. Sudden stopping of this medicine can result in agitated confusion. Do not stop taking citalopram without consulting a doctor.

Cautions

When using citalopram, the following cautions should be considered:

  • Before beginning this medication, doctors should know a complete list of your medications. Also, review your medical history to avoid complications.
  • This drug has been linked to severe heart problems. Contact a medical professional immediately if you experience heart palpitations, chest pain, or dizziness.
  • Citalopram should not be taken at the same time as an MAOI.
  • If you have negative thoughts of self-harm or suicide, seek immediate help.
  • Do not breastfeed while taking citalopram.
  • Missed doses should be taken as soon as possible. However, do not double a dose; skipping one dose is better than taking two at once.

Side Effects

As with any medication, citalopram may have side effects. Be aware of any physical changes that need a doctor’s attention.

Seek immediate help if:

  • Allergic reaction – Do not ignore symptoms like hives, blisters, fever, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat or tongue.
  • Behavior and mood changes – worsened depression, irritability, restlessness, and more.
  • Seek emergency assistance for any thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Common side effects include:

  • Dizzy or drowsy
  • Increased thirst
  • Decreased appetite or increased nausea
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Increased weakness
  • Insomnia
  • Bloody noses
  • Symptoms of a cold (congestion, sneezes)

Other side effects are possible. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a complete list. Also, discuss any symptoms you think may be related to taking citalopram.

Sertraline (Zoloft)

Sertraline is a medicine used by doctors in the treatment of depression. It is also known by its brand name, Zoloft.

An SSRI antidepressant, helps patients manage the condition of depression. It can also treat other illnesses, like:

  • MDD (major depressive disorder)
  • SAD (social anxiety disorder)
  • OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Panic disorder

Patients should always tell their doctor about their medications and supplements. Once taking sertraline, follow instructions carefully. Do not stop taking this medication suddenly, as it may cause serious reactions. Consult a doctor or pharmacist with any questions or concerns.

Cautions

As with any prescription medication, sertraline may cause some unwanted effects. Be aware of the following cautions and seek help if needed:

  • Do not take sertraline while also taking MAOIs, pimozide, or methylene blue injections.
  • Be vigilant of any thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Seek immediate medical care if having these thoughts.
  • Do not give to children under the age of 6.
  • Avoid using this medication if you are pregnant – but do not stop taking it without a doctor’s close supervision.
  • Ask a doctor if breastfeeding while taking sertraline is a safe option.
  • If a dose is missed, take it as soon as possible. Never take a double dose of sertraline.

Side Effects

While taking this medication, patients may experience varying side effects. Contact a medical professional as needed.

Emergency medical attention may be needed if:

  • Allergic reaction (like trouble breathing, swelling, hives)
  • Extreme mood or behavior changes (like increased agitation, depression, or anger)
  • Seizure
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Changes in vision
  • Signs of low sodium
  • Manic behavior

Common side effects include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems (like nausea, diarrhea, or indigestion)
  • Excess sweating
  • Unexplained tremors
  • Problems sexually

Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Escitalopram (also known by its brand name, Lexapro) is an antidepressant. It is classified as an SSRI. This medication is used in the treatment of depression and MDD (or major depressive disorder). It is intended for people over the age of 12. It is also used to treat adults’ anxiety.

Patients prescribed escitalopram should give their doctor a complete list of other medications. This includes supplements and over-the-counter medicines. Patients should also share an accurate medical history to get the best care.

A person who takes escitalopram should not stop without first consulting their doctor. Sudden stopping of this medicine can cause serious side effects.

Cautions

When taking escitalopram, be aware of the following cautions. Seek medical care if needed.

  • Do not take if also taking citalopram or pimozide.
  • Do not take if also taking MAOI drugs.
  • If thoughts of self-harm or suicide worsen, get immediate help from a doctor. This is a serious situation and should not be ignored.
  • If the patient is pregnant, discuss whether escitalopram is the right medication. This medicine can be detrimental to the fetus.
  • Do not breastfeed until you speak with your doctor about possible side effects.

Side Effects

Even when patients take escitalopram correctly, there can be side effects. Be aware of the possible reactions to taking this medicine.

Seek immediate help at an emergency room if you experience the following:

  • Allergic reactions (including difficulty breathing, swelling in the face or throat, or hives)
  • Extreme changes in mood and behavior (such as increased hostility or aggression)
  • Changes in vision (including blurring and seeing a halo light)
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Thoughts racing
  • Headache or slurred speech (can be signs of low sodium)

Common side effects of escitalopram can include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Feeling dizzy, weak, more tired
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Shaky muscles
  • Sleeping problems
  • Dry mouth or extra thirsty
  • Nauseous or constipated
  • Bloody noses
  • Sexual dysfunction (including change in sex drive)

Paroxetine (Paxil)

Paroxetine is a prescription medication. It is used in the treatment of depression and MDD (or major depressive disorder). Other conditions that can also be treated with this medication are:

  • Panic disorder
  • OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Anxiety

Paroxetine is classified as an SSRI. As an antidepressant, this drug helps balance brain chemicals. In this way, conditions like depression can be managed.

Patients should inform their doctor of a complete list of their medicines. This, along with an accurate medical history, helps the doctor treat the condition.

Cautions

Before taking paroxetine, patients should discuss any relevant warnings about this drug. Any changes in symptoms or behavior should be reported to a medical professional.

Some cautions to be aware of include:

  • Do not suddenly stop taking this medication. Once prescribed, it is crucial to take it as instructed. Stopping suddenly can cause complications.
  • Do not take if also taking thioridazine, pimozide, or MAOIs.
  • Seek medical help if experiencing a change in mood or behavior.
  • Seek emergency help if you are having hallucinations, dizziness, violent vomiting, or seizures.
  • If the patient has feelings of suicide or self-harm, get immediate medical help. This is a serious situation and should not be ignored.
  • Pregnant patients should discuss with their doctor whether paroxetine is the best option. Fetuses may experience serious complications, such as lung deficiencies.
  • Do not breastfeed while taking this medicine.
  • Do not take this medication if you are under the age of 18.
  • If possible, do not miss any doses. Take a missed dose as soon as possible, but do not double up on doses.

Common side effects of paroxetine can include the following:

  • Changes in eyesight
  • Increasingly weaker, dizzier, or tired
  • Increased anxiousness
  • Sweatier or shakier than normal
  • Trouble sleeping (having insomnia)
  • Sudden infections
  • Stomach problems (decreased appetite, increased nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation)
  • Dry mouth
  • Unexplained infection
  • Unusual headaches
  • Sexual dysfunctions (including lowered sex drive)

These are just some of the side effects that can happen. Contact your doctor or medical professional for additional information. Be aware of symptoms to watch for when taking this medicine.

Suicidal Thoughts: What to Do

Depression can often lead people to consider hurting themselves. It can even lead them to believe suicide is their only escape from the pain they feel.

Some of the signs to watch for (in yourself and others) include:

  • Discussing a desire to die or kill themselves
  • Actively looking for ways to act on their thoughts (like purchasing a weapon)
  • Saying they feel hopeless and don’t see a reason to stay alive
  • Talk a lot about the pain they are in, that they feel like they can’t escape
  • State they feel like a burden to other people
  • Use drugs or alcohol more than ever
  • Behave out of character (more anxious and agitated)
  • Excessive sleeping habits (sleep more or less than usual)
  • Become isolated and withdrawn from society
  • Obsess over wanting revenge or having extreme anger
  • Wide mood swings that seem uncontrollable

If you or someone you know is experiencing these feelings, help is available. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a nationwide support system. It is free and available 24 hours a day throughout the United States.

Don’t hesitate to seek help for yourself and for those you care about.

We Can Help With Your Treatment Plan

Overcoming depression may seem overwhelming to those with the condition. However, there is hope for a fulfilled life with a treatment plan made just for you.

Are you experiencing the symptoms of depression and don’t know what to do? Modern Recovery Services is here to help.

We are a behavioral health and accountability treatment program. We provide support in the form of a professional team and a caring environment.

We believe in treating the patient as a unique individual. Our program has a variety of options available to meet your needs. This means the plan we create to manage depression will also be unique.

Contact us today! Let’s work together to see how psychotherapy and medication can help you have the life you deserve.

Sources:

  1. Medical News Today. What is Depression: Definition. August 4, 2022. Available at: medicalnewstoday.com.
  2. eMedicineHealth. What are the Top 10 Antidepressant Drugs? May 24, 2022. Available at: emedicinehealth.com.
  3. eMedicineHealth. SSRI Drugs and Depression. October 2022. Available at: emedicinehealth.com.
  4. Drugs.com. Citalopram. December 3, 2021. Available at: drugs.com.
  5. Drugs.com. Sertraline. May 23, 2022. Available at: drugs.com.
  6. Drugs.com. Escitalopram. December 1, 2021. Available at: drugs.com.
  7. Drugs.com. Paroxetine. December 1, 2021. Available at: drugs.com.
  8. 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Help Someone Else. 2022. Available at: 988lifeline.org.
  9. 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. About. 2022. Available at: 988lifeline.org.

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