Acute administration of fluoxetine increases social avoidance and risk assessment behaviors in a sex- and social stress-dependent manner in Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus)

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2022 Mar:214:173353. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2022.173353. Epub 2022 Feb 9.


Most studies investigating the effects of acute administration of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) on responses to social stress have been conducted with males. This is despite the fact that SSRIs remain the primary pharmacotherapy for social stress-related disorders for both sexes and that the prevalence of these disorders is twofold higher in women than in men. To determine whether acute treatment with the SSRI, fluoxetine, alters behavioral responses to social defeat stress in a sex- or social stress-dependent manner, male and female Syrian hamsters were subjected to one of three social defeat conditions: no defeat (placed into an empty resident aggressor (RA) cage), a single defeat by one RA for 15 min, or three consecutive defeats using different RAs for 5 min each. The day following social defeat, subjects were infused with either vehicle or fluoxetine (20 mg/kg, I.P.) 2 h prior to a 5 min social avoidance test. Overall, we found that fluoxetine increased social vigilance regardless of sex or defeat condition. We also found that fluoxetine affected social avoidance in a sex by stress intensity interaction, such that fluoxetine increased avoidance in no defeat males and in males defeated once but significantly increased avoidance in females only after three defeats. These data suggest that treatment with an SSRI could initially exacerbate the effects of social stress in both sexes. These data also emphasize the importance of including sex as a biological variable when investigating the efficacy of pharmacotherapy for stress-related disorders.

Keywords: Avoidance; Fluoxetine; SSRI; Sex differences; Social defeat; Social stress; Vigilance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cricetinae
  • Female
  • Fluoxetine* / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus
  • Risk Assessment
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stress, Psychological / drug therapy


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Fluoxetine