Antidepressants are designed to impact brain chemistry by affecting the levels of chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals (called neurotransmitters) are key to the transmission of signals between brain cells (called neurons).
If you would like to learn more about how neurotransmitters, neurons, and synapses work, visit our Medications for Depression page.
Each type of antidepressant affects the behavior of neurotransmitters differently.
Adjacent brain cells (neurons) send signals to each other by releasing messenger chemicals (neurotransmitters) into the tiny space between the two cells. For a signal to end, the messenger chemicals must be removed from that space.
One way the messenger chemicals are removed is by brain cells taking them back inside the cell. This process is called Reuptake. Antidepressants can slow Reuptake so that chemical messengers stay between brain cells longer and at higher levels.
Experts believe that keeping certain neurotransmitter levels high can improve communication between the neurons and improve the brain’s circuits, regulating your mood.
Different types of reuptake inhibitors target different types of neurotransmitters and are named accordingly. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants usually fall into one of three types:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)
There are also other types of antidepressants that are less commonly prescribed. Based on your needs, your Options MD psychiatrist can help determine which type of antidepressant may be the right one for you.