SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft antidepressant tablets

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What Are SSRIs?

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the U.S. As their name suggests, SSRIs are used to treat depression.

SSRIs are believed to improve mood and treat depression by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Because of their ability to boost a person's mood, doctors also prescribe SSRIs to treat other mood-related disorders, like anxiety or bipolar disorder.

List of SSRIs

Below is a list of SSRIs currently prescribed in the U.S.:

SSRIs and Bipolar Disorder

Using antidepressants like SSRIs in bipolar disorder is controversial. Some doctors avoid prescribing them because of evidence showing they worsen bipolar symptoms and trigger manic episodes in people with bipolar depression. These risks are even greater for those prone to rapid cycling.

Others find no evidence of this increased risk, claiming that antidepressants can be effective when used with a mood stabilizer (such as lithium or valproate). And then there are those who say using an antidepressant in combination with a mood stabilizer is no better than just using a mood stabilizer alone.

Lithium is considered the first-line treatment for bipolar depression. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommends against using an antidepressant alone to treat bipolar depression.

But despite the potential risks, antidepressants like SSRIs are still the most commonly prescribed drug for treating bipolar depression.

Doctors are more likely to prescribe an SSRI if you have responded well to one in the past or if your depression is severe. Additionally, if you are not responding to mood-stabilizers alone, your doctor may add on an SSRI.

What Happens When I Stop An SSRI?

Here is a look at the causes and symptoms of SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome, the uncomfortable reaction some people have to cut down or quit certain types of antidepressants.

Here are tips for both pill and capsule handling to ease the effects of lowering your dosage or discontinuing an SSRI antidepressant medication—when a too-abrupt transition could cause troubling symptoms.

What Should I Do?

If you have bipolar depression and you are taking an SSRI, be sure to discuss with your doctor the potential side effects, and also the signs of a manic episode and rapid cycling. It's important you take your medication, as prescribed. Do not stop your medication without consulting your doctor—this is for your safety and well-being.

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  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Information. Updated December 23, 2014.

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  4. Sachs GS, Nierenberg AA, Calabrese JR, et al. Effectiveness of adjunctive antidepressant treatment for bipolar depression. N Engl J Med. 2007;356(17):1711-1722. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa064135

  5. Baldessarini RJ, Leahy L, Arcona S, Gause D, Zhang W, Hennen J. Patterns of psychotropic drug prescription for U.S. patients with diagnoses of bipolar disorders. Psychiatr Serv. 2007;58(1):85-91. doi:10.1176/ps.2007.58.1.85

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