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Top Depression Medications

writtenByWritten by: Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Ken Cosby M.D.

Ken Cosby M.D.

Dr. Ken Cosby received his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine (Washington, DC) and completed his research post-doc work at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health including the National Heart Lung Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute.

March 1, 2021 Read Time - 5 minutes

What Are the Best Drugs to Treat Depression?

Antidepressants are the best drug class to treat depression. Some common antidepressants are: Prozac, Wellbutrin, Lexapro, and Zoloft. Each antidepressant comes with different benefits and side effects. Your prescribing doctor will work with you to determine the best antidepressant to treat your mental illness.

In 1987, Prozac was introduced as the first antidepressant. Now, numerous prescription medications are available to treat depression and anxiety, but which ones are the best to treat depression?

It often comes down to patient preference as well as trial and error. Many providers have a handful of antidepressants that they prescribe at first because most patients seem to respond positively to those medications.

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What is the Most Commonly Prescribed Antidepressant?

The most commonly prescribed antidepressants include SSRI medication, also known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Some examples of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants are:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Trintellix (vortioxetine)

SSRI medications, like the ones above, increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, thus improving depression symptoms. Serotonin is a chemical in your brain that affects mood, learning and memory. Patients diagnosed with depression often have a deficiency in this chemical.

Other categories of medicines for depression are available. These include: 

  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
  • Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants
  • Atypical antidepressants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors 
  • N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist
  • Neuroactive Steroid Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid- A Receptor Positive Modulator.

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What are the Top 10 Antidepressants?

The top 10 antidepressants are based upon cost, effectiveness, most commonly prescribed, and patient satisfaction. Although the chemical components of each antidepressant are similar, patients may have preferences for one medication over another. This is why one medication may not work as positively for one person as it does for another.

In general, there are a few commonly prescribed antidepressants that are used more frequently than others due to their positive patient outcomes. According to the National Library of Medicine, the top 10 antidepressants based on patient reviews and the frequency of prescription include:

1. Prozac (fluoxetine)

2. Celexa (citalopram)

3. Zoloft (sertraline)

4. Paxil (paroxetine)

5. Lexapro (escitalopram)

6. Wellbutrin (bupropion)

7. Effexor (venlafaxine)

8. Cymbalta (duloxetine)

9. Trintellix (vortioxetine)

10. Desyrel (trazodone)

Read: How to Speak to an Online Psychiatrist

Do Depression Pills Help?

Yes, prescription medications to treat depression are highly effective in the majority of patients with major depressive disorder. Depression pills, commonly known as antidepressants, work by increasing certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) to help fight depression.

The chemicals that make up your brain functioning also affect your mood. Some brain chemicals may be low or not working properly, resulting in the feeling of depression. This is diagnosed as a major depressive disorder. These brain chemicals, also called neurotransmitters, include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine to name a few.

Everyone’s brain chemistry is different and the way in which they react to each medication is also different. This is why the same SSRI medication will not work the same for each person.

It is often a trial and error system for finding the right medication. This process can take months to figure out the “right” medication for you. However, once you find the right depression pill, this can be the difference between dreading your day or being excited to take on the day.

Do Antidepressants Make You Happy?

Happiness is certainly subjective, but people express feeling more motivated and less stressed while taking antidepressants. Antidepressants are called antidepressants and not mood boosters because they do just that; they help decrease the symptoms of depression.

In short, no antidepressants just make you happy. They can be used to manage symptoms of depression in conjunction with lifestyle changes and other treatments such as therapy. In time, symptoms of depression may improve as a result of these treatments leading patients to feel happier.

Read: Therapy for Depression

Symptoms of depression

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Feeling like you are physically moving slower or faster than normal
  • Thinking about death or suicide
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sleep patterns (too much or too little)

Ultimately, antidepressants treat the symptoms of depression which may manifest itself as feelings of “happiness” to some. When on antidepressants you may notice that something that used to bother you, no longer does. Or that you are able to tackle problems with stride instead of hiding from them. All these feelings can be expressed as happiness. 

Is Depression Medication Right for Me?

To decide if depression medication is right for you, talk with your doctor about your depression symptoms. You and your provider will determine the right medication for you to take if any at all.

If one medication does not work for you tell your doctor and they can consider a different dosage or prescribe a different medication. Keep in mind that depression medication can take 4-6 weeks to feel the beneficial effects.

Some people may experience side effects when starting a new medication, for many these side effects fade as the body adjusts to treatment. Others may choose to try a different medication.

The Easiest Way to Get Depression Medication

You can conveniently get depression medication prescribed online following a virtual consultation with a PlushCare doctor. Our board-certified physicians frequently prescribe antidepressants and other mental health medications to treat mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

The doctor will work with you to determine what the best medication is for you and will check on you to ensure the care plan is working.

You can book an appointment here, or download the free PlushCare mobile app. The average appointment lasts just 15 minutes and 97% of conditions are successfully treated on the first visit.

Please note that online doctors cannot prescribe controlled substances.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.


Read More About the Top Antidepressants


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

National Library of Medicine. National Institute of Health. Commonly prescribed antidepressants and how they work. NIHMedline Health. Retrieved on November 16, 2020 from

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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