Atypical antidepressants

Atypical antidepressants differ from other classes of antidepressants. Learn what they are and how they work.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Atypical antidepressants are not typical — they don't fit into other classes of antidepressants. They are each unique medications that work in different ways from one another.

How atypical antidepressants work

Atypical antidepressants ease depression by affecting chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) used to communicate between brain cells. Like most antidepressants, atypical antidepressants work by ultimately effecting changes in brain chemistry and communication in brain nerve cell circuitry known to regulate mood, to help relieve depression.

Atypical antidepressants change the levels of one or more neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin or norepinephrine.

Atypical antidepressants approved by the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved these atypical antidepressants to treat depression:

  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Forfivo XL, Aplenzin), which under the name Zyban is used to aid in smoking cessation
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Nefazodone
  • Trazodone, which is also used to treat insomnia
  • Vortioxetine (Trintellix)

Possible side effects of atypical antidepressants

Side effects may occur with antidepressants, including atypical antidepressants, though some people may not experience any. Some side effects may go away after a time, while others may lead you and your doctor to try a different medication.

Because of the different ways atypical antidepressants work, each has unique characteristics and varying possible side effects. For example:

  • Most of the atypical antidepressants list dry mouth, dizziness or lightheadedness as possible side effects.
  • Some antidepressants may help you sleep and are best taken at night, while others may cause insomnia.
  • Some antidepressants may cause constipation, while others may increase the risk of diarrhea.
  • Some antidepressants may increase your appetite, resulting in weight gain, while others may cause nausea.
  • Some antidepressants are less likely than others to cause sexual side effects.

Which antidepressant is best for you depends on a number of issues, such as your symptoms and any other health conditions you may have. Ask your doctor and pharmacist about the most common possible side effects for your specific antidepressant and read the patient medication guide that comes with the prescription.

June 25, 2016 See more In-depth