Antidepressants and Autism Ranking: Mildly Hazardous Unable to rate

Aims and Claims


Antidepressants are normally used to treat people with moderate to severe depressive illness and a range of other conditions. 

Antidepressants are designed to work by boosting or prolonging the activity of particular brain chemicals, such as noradrenaline and serotonin, which are thought to be involved with regulating mood. However, according to Mind (2016), “... there is no scientific evidence that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance which is corrected by antidepressants.”


There have been various claims made for the use of antidepressants as a treatment for autistic people.  For example,

  • Couturier and Nicolson (2002) reported that citalopram led to decreases in aggression, anxiety, stereotypies, and preoccupations
  • Hollander et al (2005) reported that fluoxetine was significantly better than placebo in decreasing repetitive behaviors and marginally superior to placebo in decreasing global autism severity
  • McDougle et al (1998) reported that sertraline was effective in reducing interfering repetitive and aggressive symptoms in adults with pervasive developmental disorders [autism]
  • Niederhofer (2003) reported that that parents and teachers reported perceived reductions in irritability, hyperactivity, inadequate eye contact and inappropriate speech when using tianeptine
  • Remington (2001) reported that clomipramine led to improvements in ‘autistic symptoms’, irritability and OCD-like symptoms 
17 Jun 2022
Last Review
01 Jan 2017
Next Review
01 Jul 2023