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Antidepressants for Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Topic Overview

Antidepressants are used to treat depression, anxiety, or both by correcting imbalances in brain chemistry. For people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), doses much lower than those usually used to treat depression can help relieve symptoms of IBS such as pain, bloating, and feeling like you are unable to pass a stool.1

They may be used to treat chronic, unremitting abdominal (belly) pain that interferes with your daily activities. Here are some examples of antidepressants used to treat IBS. Your doctor may give you one that is not in this list.

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  • Amitriptyline
  • Bupropion (such as Wellbutrin)
  • Citalopram (such as Celexa)
  • Desipramine (such as Norpramin)
  • Fluoxetine (such as Prozac)
  • Imipramine (such as Tofranil)
  • Paroxetine (such as Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Trazodone
  • Venlafaxine (such as Effexor)

For people who have IBS along with depression and anxiety, these medicines may be used in doses that are usually used to treat depression or anxiety. Some antidepressants may make constipation worse. Others may make diarrhea worse. You may start to feel better in 1 to 3 weeks after taking antidepressant medicine. But it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more improvement. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or if you do not notice any improvement by 3 weeks, talk to your doctor. See the topic Depression for more information.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.

See Drug Reference for more information about these medicines. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: April 26, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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