Psychotropic medications treat a variety of conditions. They can affect a person’s mood, behavior, perception, and thoughts. Types of psychotropic medications include antidepressants, antianxiety medications, and stimulants.

This article explores uses for these medications, types, side effects, and black box warnings. It also discusses potential drug interactions and when to contact a doctor.

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Different types of psychotropic medications may work in different ways, but they also act similarly. These medications alter neurotransmitters in the brain to improve symptoms of various conditions. A doctor will prescribe a specific medication according to a person’s illness, the severity of their condition, symptoms, age, and other factors.

Psychotropic medications can help treat various disorders. Some of these include:

Common types of psychotropic medications include antidepressants, antianxiety medications, antipsychotic medications, and stimulants.


Antidepressants are a type of psychotropic that doctors may prescribe to treat various mental health disorders, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.

There are several types of antidepressants.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

Doctors typically prescribe SSRIs as a first-line treatment for depression, in combination with psychotherapy. They work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that may have a positive influence on mood, which leaves more serotonin available to transmit messages between nerve cells.

Types of SSRIs include:

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs treat disorders by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain by preventing the nerve cells from reabsorbing them.

Types of SNRIs include:

Tricyclic antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants are an older class of antidepressants. Doctors will generally only prescribe them for people who have not responded well to treatment with newer classes. These antidepressants also work by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine available.

Some types include:

  • amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • doxepin (Sinequan)
  • nortriptyline (Pamelor)
  • imipramine (Tofranil)
  • amoxapine (Asendin)

Antianxiety medications

Antianxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, are sedative drugs that treat the physical symptoms of anxiety and cause relaxation.

Types include:

Antipsychotic medications

Antipsychotic medications treat a variety of conditions, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. There are two types of antipsychotic medications: typical and atypical.

Typical antipsychotics are an older class of antipsychotic medication. They work by acting on the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Examples include:

  • trifluoperazine (Stelazine)
  • haloperidol (Haldol)
  • loxapine (Adasuve)
  • thiothixene (Navane)
  • molindone (Moban)

Atypical antipsychotics act on both dopamine and serotonin receptors. Examples include:

  • clozapine (Clozaril)
  • risperidone (Risperdal)
  • olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • iloperidone (Fanapt, Zomaril)
  • paliperidone (Invega)


Doctors typically prescribe stimulant medications to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Stimulants increase energy, alertness, and attention.

Types include:

Psychotropic drugs have various potential side effects.


Some side effects of SSRIs may include:


Some adverse effects of SNRIs may include:

Tricyclic antidepressants

Some side effects of tricyclic antidepressants may include:


Some adverse effects of benzodiazepines may include:


Some side effects of typical antipsychotics may include:

Some adverse effects of atypical antipsychotics may include:

  • elevated risk of stroke
  • shaking
  • stiffness


Some side effects of stimulants may include:

Black box warnings, or boxed warnings, are the highest safety warning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can assign to drugs. They highlight the major risks of the medication or its mechanism of action.

Some psychotropic medications with boxed warnings include:

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Psychotropic drugs may interact with other medications, alcohol, over-the-counter products, and foods.

People should only take medication as a healthcare professional directs. They also need to discuss any other medications or supplements they are taking with their doctor.

Some psychotropic medications, such as benzodiazepines, may lead to dependency and addiction, and a person should take them only as their doctor directs.

A person should contact a doctor or seek emergency medical attention if they experience any severe symptoms after taking psychotropic medication. They should also consult a doctor if they think the medication may be causing more harm than help.

Psychotropic medication refers to a group of drugs that doctors may prescribe to treat a variety of conditions.

These medication types include antidepressants, antianxiety medications, antipsychotics, and stimulants. They work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain.

There are side effects and potential risks relating to psychotropic medications, which is why many of these medications carry a boxed warning. A person should speak with their doctor about potential adverse effects and drug interactions before taking psychotropic medications.