Explains what antidepressants are, how they work, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.
The healthcare professionals who can prescribe you antidepressants include:
Many antidepressants can be prescribed by your doctor. But some can only be prescribed if you are supervised by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist.
These information pages usually refer to 'your doctor' prescribing this medication. They are the most likely person to prescribe you these drugs.
"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 can treat the symptoms of depression or other mental health problems. But they don't always deal with the causes. Doctors will often prescribe them alongside a talking therapy, to help deal with the causes of your mental health problems.
You may find that some types of antidepressant work better than others for your symptoms. Or you may find that antidepressants aren’t right for you. See our page on how antidepressants can help to find out more.
Antidepressants work by boosting the activity of particular brain chemicals, or making the activity last longer. This includes noradrenaline and serotonin, which are thought to be involved in regulating your mood.
Noradrenaline and serotonin are neurotransmitters. This means that they are chemicals which pass messages between nerve cells in your brain, and between nerves and other organs in the rest of your body.
By causing a change to your brain chemistry, antidepressants may lift your mood. But 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 antidepressant. They mostly affect the same brain chemicals and cause similar effects. But some people may respond to certain antidepressants better than others. And the different drugs may cause different side effects.
The different types are:
About tricyclic-related drugs:
There are several other antidepressants available which don't fit into any of the categories above. For more information about these antidepressants, see our page on comparing antidepressants.
This information was published in September 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.