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How they work

It's thought that SSRIs work by increasing the levels of a chemical called serotonin in the brain.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a messenger chemical that carries signals between nerve cells in the brain). It's thought to have a good influence on mood, emotion and sleep.

After carrying a message, serotonin is usually reabsorbed by the nerve cells (known as 'reuptake'). SSRIs work by blocking ('inhibiting') reuptake, meaning more serotonin is available to pass further messages between nearby nerve cells.

It would be too simplistic to say that depression and related mental health conditions are caused by low serotonin levels, but a rise in serotonin levels can improve symptoms and make people more responsive to other types of treatment, such as CBT



Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a widely used type of antidepressant medication.

They are mainly prescribed to treat depression, particularly persistent or severe cases, and are often used in combination with a talking therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

SSRIs are usually the first choice medication for depression because they generally have fewer side effects than most other types of antidepressant.

As well as depression, SSRIs can be used to treat certain other mental health conditions, including:
generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
panic disorder
severe phobias, such as agoraphobia and social phobia
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

SSRIs can also be used to treat people with certain other conditions, such as premature ejaculation, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


Side Effects

Most people will only experience a few mild side effects when taking SSRIs. These can be troublesome at first, but most will generally improve with time.

Common side effects of SSRIs can include:
feeling agitated, shaky or anxious
feeling or being sick
blurred vision
low sex drive
difficulty achieving orgasm during sex or masturbation
in men, difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)

You will usually see your doctor every few weeks when you first start taking SSRIs, to discuss how well the medication is working. However, you can contact your doctor at any point if you experience any troublesome or persistent side effects.


SSRI therapy for GAD

- most current treatment guidelines emphasize that SSRIs and SNRIs are the first-line pharmacotherapy agents of choice in GAD.