SSRIs vs MAOIs: Difference and Comparison

Depression is a terrible disorder leading to stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. The medications which are used to treat and cure depression are called antidepressants.

Besides these, antidepressants also treat anxiety, disorders related to panic attacks, addictive causes, etc. SSRIs and MAOIs are antidepressant drugs.

Key Takeaways

  1. SSRIs selectively inhibit serotonin reuptake, while MAOIs inhibit the enzyme monoamine oxidase that breaks down neurotransmitters.
  2. SSRIs have fewer side effects and drug interactions than MAOIs, making them safer for most patients.
  3. MAOIs require strict dietary restrictions to avoid a hypertensive crisis, whereas SSRIs do not have these restrictions.


The difference between SSRIs and MAOIs is that SSRIs work safely to treat depression disorders, whereas MAOIs are more powerful than SSRIs. The power and action of these antidepressant drugs are based upon their effects and actions in the body’s nervous system.


SSRIs stand for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. SSRIs are a more common and short name. They are the type of antidepressant drugs used for the treatment of depression.

They work by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that regulates mood and anxiety levels.

MAOIs stand for Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors. They are commonly known by the name MAOIs. MAOIs are also strong antidepressants that treat depression disorders.

MAOI drugs work by raising serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the brain. These chemicals also help in regulating mood and anxiety levels.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonSSRIsMAOIs
DefinitionMAOIs are harsh antidepressants. Their side effects on the body are more, and the risk factor is also high.MAOIs work at extreme levels and function more aggressively to treat depression.
Chemicals triggeredSSRIs majorly trigger to regulate and increase the level of serotonin in the brain.MAOIs work to increase the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine chemicals in the brain.
PotencySSRIs are drugs that are safe and sound to use with normal potency.Antidepressants like MAOIs are more potent and aggressively stronger than SSRIs.
Side effectsSSRIs are safe and normal antidepressants. They have very few side effects on the body.MAOIs are harsh antidepressants. Their side effects on the body are more and the risk factor is also high.
DirectionsSSRI drugs are frequently and commonly directed by the doctor for normal treatment of depression.The MAOIs drugs are directed in harsh and serious cases. They are less prescribed.

What are SSRIs?

SSRIs are abbreviated as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. They are less potent drugs that are first preferred for the treatment of depression and work normally with very fewer effects on the body than other normal antidepressants do.

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SSRI drugs are those antidepressants that regulate serotonin levels to increase in the brain and more nerve cells to interact with one another.

More interaction of the nerve cells and increment in serotonin levels in the brain cause mood upliftment and reduced anxiety levels.

They have a complex behavioral pattern in the brain, but to make it simple, we can say that they don’t work by cyclic reabsorption of serotonin again and again by the brain’s nerve cells.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that carries messages and signals between the brain and nerve cells. SSRIs block and inhibit the reabsorption of serotonin.

This reabsorption is known as reuptake, and they prevent reabsorption. As time passes, the patient becomes calm, and fresh nerve cells take control of the emotions.

However, the drug has side effects too, but they are very fewer and regulated at safe levels. Some drugs approved by FDA from the SSRIs class are citalopram, sertraline, fluoxetine, etc.

What are MAOIs?

MAOIs are abbreviated as Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors. MAOI drugs are among the first antidepressants developed that work ahead of the normal boundaries for antidepressant drugs.

They are prescribed less and only when the situation is critical and harsh.

This clear behavior shows that MAOI drugs are harsh and aggressive antidepressants. They are also used for various purposes, like treating depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

MAOIs antidepressants are more potent and aggressive than other antidepressants. Besides serotonin levels, they also increase dopamine and norepinephrine chemicals in the brain.

The working mechanism of MAOI drugs is more complex and sophisticated than SSRIs.

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MAOIs work by inhibiting or blocking an enzyme called monoamine oxidase because monoamine oxidase causes the reduction of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

These chemicals are a necessity for mood upliftment and lowering anxiety levels.

These harsh antidepressants have very complex brain chemistry for increasing neurotransmitters. Besides depression and unlike SSRIs, MAOIs also treat Parkinson’s disease.

Moreover, the harsh properties of this antidepressant also lead to various side effects in the body. MAOIs are used only when the case is serious. MAOIs class includes drugs like selegiline, phenelzine, rasagiline, etc.

Main Differences Between SSRIs and MAOIs 

  1. SSRIs are those antidepressants that are used as frontline protection and treatment against depression disorders. In contrast, MAOI drugs are harsh and aggressive antidepressants used when SSRIs and other drugs fail to treat depression disorders.
  2. SSRIs have very few or almost no dietary restrictions, whereas MAOI drugs have specific restrictions and boundaries in the diet. 
  3. The SSRIs take time of effect from four to six weeks, whereas MAOI drugs take about two to three weeks to become effective.
  4. SSRIs antidepressants treat depression disorders like anxiety, restlessness, etc., whereas MAOI drugs treat depression disorders and Parkinson’s disease.
  5. SSRIs have no relation with blood pressure, whereas MAOIs can increase blood pressure if dietary restrictions are lacking.

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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9 thoughts on “SSRIs vs MAOIs: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The detailed description of the mode of action of SSRIs and MAOIs enriches the understanding of these antidepressants. Thought-provoking content.

  2. The comparison of SSRIs and MAOIs provides valuable insights. It is evident that the choice of antidepressants should be based on the patient’s profile and medical history.

    • Absolutely, the individual circumstances and risks associated with each patient are essential in determining the most suitable antidepressant.

  3. Despite the complexity and harshness of the MAOIs, they are essential for the treatment of severe depression. The detailed comparison provided here is enlightening.

  4. The clarity in distinguishing the differences and effects of SSRIs and MAOIs is beneficial not only for those affected by depression but also for practitioners in the field.

  5. SSRIs are safe and effective, but the dietary restrictions with MAOIs raise concerns. This post presents a comprehensive overview of these antidepressants.

    • The impact of dietary restrictions on the use of MAOIs is indeed a critical consideration. This post highlights the importance of careful administration.

  6. Very informative post explaining the differences between SSRIs and MAOIs. Understanding the impact of different antidepressants is crucial for patients and medical professionals.


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