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Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)

The SSRIs are a group of antidepressants that all work by inhibiting the actions of serotonin transporters in the brain. These transporters normally remove serotonin that is circulating in the brain, and so blocking the actions of these transporters serves to increase the levels of circulating serotonin and the overall actions of serotonin on the brain. Serotonin seems to have a calming effect on various brain systems and helps to ease anxiety, depression, anger and impulsivity.

The SSRIs are among the most commonly used medications for treating a variety of conditions, including Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, impulsive behaviors associated with Borderline Personality Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Dementia, Eating Disorders, Hypochondriasis, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Trichotillomania, and Fibromyalgia.

These medications are generally well tolerated. Like all antidepressants, they are not addictive and do not change one's personality. Most of the side-effects they cause, such as stomach upset, diarrhea, or headaches, usually disappear after a few weeks of use. A minority of individuals taking these medications may experience sexual side-effects or weight gain. These medications should also be used with caution in people with Bipolar Disorder. For a more detailed description of the side-effects of these medications, see PsychVisit's articles on the individual SSRI medications.

The currently available SSRIs include:

There is some evidence Escitalopram and Sertraline stand out as being particularly effective and well-tolerated [ref].