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.footnote 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.
Bupropion (such as Wellbutrin)
(such as Celexa)
Desipramine (such as Norpramin)
Fluoxetine (such as Prozac)
(such as Tofranil)
Paroxetine (such as Paxil)
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.)
American College of Gastroenterology (2009). An evidence-based systematic review on the management of irritable bowel syndrome. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 104(Suppl 1): S8–S35.