SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Currently SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed anti-depressants. SSRIs first appeared in 1988 under the name of 'Prozac', although many more SSRIs are commonly prescribed in the United Kingdom.
SSRIs are said to be 'third generation' anti-depressants. SSRIs cause far less negative side-effects when compared to older forms of anti-depressants available before 1988.
SSRIs treat mental health problems by increasing the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is classed as a neurotransmitter. This means serotonin carries messages between the brain's various nerve cells. An increase in serotonin activity is thought capable of improving the user's level of wellbeing.
Once serotonin has carried a signal between nerves, the receiving nerve absorbs the serotonin during a process that is scientifically known as 'reuptake'. SSRI anti-depressants block this reuptake causing serotonin to travel along to other nerve cells further away from its intended recipient.
SSRIs are typically best combined with talking therapies such as psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.
What conditions are SSRIs used to treat?
SSRIs are predominantly used to treat clinic depression. SSRIs may also be used to treat the following mental health problems:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Panic disorder
- Phobias such as social phobia and agoraphobia
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
SSRIs may also be used to treat physical conditions such as fibromyalgia, premenstrual syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Duration of typical SSRI treatment
The vast majority of patients taking SSRI do so by consuming the drug in table form. Patients build up a tolerance to SSRIs over time meaning the dosage is typically increased over time.
Patients must continue using SSRIs for at least a two week period in order to derive any benefits from doing so. SSRI therapy typically lasts for around six months. However some patients have been known to continue SSRI treatment for many years, or even for the remainder of their lifetime.
Common SSRIs prescribed on the NHS
SSRI is a general umbrella term used to describe many different chemicals. Some of the more common SSRIs prescribed through the NHS include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Citalopram (Cipramil)
- Fluvoxamine (Faverin)
- Sertraline (Lustral)