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Explains what antidepressants are, how they work, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.
"I took medication for six months. It helped lift the fog and gave me the energy I needed to tackle the root cause of my depression. There is no shame in taking medication to treat an illness."
Watch Hannah talk about how antidepressants helped her.
Antidepressants work by boosting or prolonging the activity of particular brain chemicals, such as noradrenaline and serotonin, which are thought to be involved with regulating mood.
Noradrenaline and serotonin are neurotransmitters. This means that they pass messages between nerve cells in your brain, and between nerves and other target organs in the rest of your body.
By causing a change to your brain chemistry, antidepressants may lift your mood. However, antidepressants don't work for everyone, and there is no scientific evidence that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance which is corrected by antidepressants.
There are several different types of antidepressants, which were developed at different times. They all tend to act on the same brain chemicals and cause similar effects, but the different types have different chemical structures, and may have different side effects.
The different types are:
About tricyclic-related drugs:
There are also several other antidepressants available which don't fit into any of the categories above. For more information about these antidepressants, see our antidepressants A–Z.
This information was published in 2016. We will revise it in 2019.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.