Can Antidepressants Treat Hot Flashes and Other Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms?

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Antidepressants are the nickname for drugs that help with depression and most of them affect the so-called neurotransmitters, the messengers that are present between the cells of the human brain. Several studies have concluded that antidepressants not only work to treat depression but are also useful for the treatment of other disorders. Among them are excessive anxiety, migraines, insomnia, and even eating disorders.

However, several studies have released a different fact. Antidepressants are reliable for treating hot flashes, one of the most common symptoms experienced by women when they are in menopause. Before going further into the function of antidepressants to treat hot flashes, it would be nice for us to know the four main variants of antidepressants.

Here are the four main variants of antidepressants:

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  1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This variant can increase the quantity of the neurotransmitter serotonin and SSRIs tend to be prescribed in the first stage of treatment because they have the fewest side effects than the other variants.
  2. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Same as SSRI but this variant also increases the quantity of norepinephrine in the human brain.
  3. Tricyclic antidepressants. This variant is “more powerful” than the two above and the focus is on increasing serotonin and norepinephrine supplies.
  4. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Monoamines are a type of neurotransmitter and include serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. The human body continuously creates the enzyme monoamine oxidase which functions to destroy monoamines and MAOI antidepressants work by blocking or reducing the effectiveness of these enzymes. This variant has more serious side effects, and is therefore only prescribed for patients with high levels of depression.
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Back on topic, what are the benefits of antidepressants for “menopausal problems“?

From several studies, it can be concluded that why antidepressants work so well in menopausal women is because they can relieve the vasomotor symptoms of menopause. This is a symptom involving the performance of the blood vessels and there are 3 typical symptoms; hot flashes, flushed skin, and cold sweats at night. A study 8 years ago revealed that at least 80% of menopausal women experience one of the three symptoms above.

Several studies have also shown that low-dose SNRI or SSRI can minimize vasomotor symptoms of menopause, especially hot flashes. One study even went so far as to announce that low-dose SNRIs can reduce vasomotor symptoms with the same effectiveness as hormone replacement therapy. Another 2015 study also found that low-dose SSRIs could improve sleep quality in most postmenopausal women.

Of course it is inseparable from the success of SSRIs, in this case paroxetine (Paxil) in reducing menopausal vasomotor symptoms. While these studies are promising, experts (including those involved in these studies) are not sure why low-dose SSRIs and SNRIs can reduce vasomotor symptoms. However, they attributed the function of the two variants to balancing serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. When that balance occurs, the overall body temperature will be more stable than before.

However, it should be noted that the two antidepressant variants only affect hot flashes and night sweats. In other words they appear to not affect reddening the skin and other menopausal symptoms. So hormone replacement therapy may still be the most effective way to treat these other symptoms. You can find more about hormone therapy at

Side effects

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Of course, like other drugs, antidepressants cannot be given arbitrarily because they carry side effects. If you consult a doctor, he or she may mention the following side effects:

  • easy to dry mouth
  • persistent nausea
  • excessive nervousness
  • sleep disturbances or insomnia
  • some sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction

There have been other side effects noted but they result from the use of tricyclic antidepressants. They are blurred vision, constipation, decreased blood pressure when standing, excessive drowsiness, and urinary retention.

This thing consists of several variants and each provides different side effects. By consulting a doctor, you can choose an antidepressant with “acceptable” side effects. You may have to find several antidepressants before you find the right one.

Antidepressants are generally safe to use but those used to reduce symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats are not defined. In other words, these antidepressant manufacturers have never claimed that their products can reduce the vasomotor symptoms of menopause. It should be borne in mind that use to minimize vasomotor symptoms is based on only a few studies and is not “a general rule” that has been approved by relevant agencies such as the FDA.

However, there is one antidepressant called Brisdelle, and the drug has been specifically studied by the FDA for its function in treating vasomotor symptoms. And so far the FDA has concluded that Brisdelle may be effective in treating hot flashes and night sweats. However, the FDA has not yet issued a recommendation for the use of Brisdelle to treat these two menopausal vasomotor symptoms.

Before taking antidepressants…

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You should tell your doctor because in most cases, antidepressants interact with other medications negatively. So if you have been taking other medicines regularly you should be aware that taking antidepressants can reduce the effectiveness of the medicines you are taking and even have negative effects on your body.

Be sure to tell your doctor, especially if you suffer from any of the following:

A doctor can recommend safe antidepressants that will give you minimal side effects.

And finally, serotonin syndrome…

This is a syndrome associated with a rare condition that occurs when the serotonin levels of antidepressant users are too high. Usually MAOIs are responsible for this syndrome. Interactions with antidepressants are also responsible for serotonin syndrome. The following are medications that may interact with antidepressants to produce serotonin syndrome:

  • Triptans, which are a type of anti-migraine drug.
  • Dextromethorphan, which is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter cold medicines.
  • Some herbal supplements, especially those made from ginseng.
  • Illegal drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine, and LSD.


Antidepressants may affect reducing menopausal vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, however, their use should be preceded by consultation with a doctor. This aims to reduce the side effects that may be harmful.