BACKGROUND: While the overall consumption of psychotropic medicines such as tranquillisers and hypnotics has declined, the consumption of the newer antidepressants--selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has increased drastically since their introduction. In order to understand the mechanisms underlying the use, it is important to gain insight into the users' perceptions about their medicine and use. OBJECTIVE: To analyse younger women's perceived functions of SSRIs in their everyday lives. METHODS: 12 in-depth interviews and 6 re-interviews were conducted with a community-based sample of 21- to 34-year-old women taking SSRIs. The women were recruited through Danish pharmacies. RESULTS: Prior to taking SSRIs the women struggled with their emotional problems, often in great frustration and distress. While taking SSRIs the women experienced that the medicine functioned both at a psychological and a social level. They believed that the medicine gave them resources to behave actively in a way that was not previously possible. They felt that the medicine use enabled them to concentrate on daily life activities other than dealing solely with their emotional problems. The women found that the medicine gave them back a sense of 'normality'. CONCLUSION: The main finding in this paper is that the perceived functions of SSRIs were related to social meanings and goals in everyday life.