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Side Effects of Antidepressant Medications

Posted by Depression Help | Posted in Antidepressant Medications | Posted on 15-09-2011

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Because antidepressant medications are one of the most common treatments for clinical depression, there’s a lot of talk about their side effects. Side effects of depression medications, like any other medications, vary widely from person to person, so it’s important to speak with your doctor about any potential side effects you may be experiencing. Also, don’t make any decisions related to antidepressants based on what their side effects might be, as you never know what you’ll experience (it’s likely that if you’ll experience side effects, they will be quite mild).

Some of the most common side effects of antidepressant medications are headaches, nausea, and being tired. Often, symptoms like these will go away after a couple weeks of being on the medication. Not being able to sleep or other changes in sleep patterns are also possible. Symptoms like these, too, often go away after taking the medication for a few weeks (this type of side effect is called “transitory”). Stomach upset, diarrhea, constipation, and other gastrointestinal symptoms are common, as well. Some people also report anxiety and restlessness.

While most antidepressant side effects are mild and transient, some are slightly more serious. Many people experience weight gain, or weight loss, soon after starting a new antidepressant (this may be related to different medications’ effects on how your body retains water). Another very common group of side effects are sexual side effects—these often include things like delayed ejaculation, difficulty reaching orgasm, and reduced sexual desire. While sexual side effects can occur on many medications, they may be less likely on drugs like bupropion (Wellbutrin), which don’t directly affect serotonin levels.

Very serious side effects of antidepressants are quite rare, but are worth mentioning because many of them are preventable. Many of these side effects are caused by drug interactions—for example, MAOIs can react with other drugs (and even certain foods) and have significant and potentially dangerous effects on blood pressure. Wellbutrin, an NDRI, if taken in too high a dose, can cause seizures. Certain types of antidepressants have been shown to actually increase suicidal thoughts in children. All of these side effects, while very serious, can be prevented by letting your doctor know what other medications you’re on, and by paying close attention to how you or someone you know are affected by your medication.

Though this may seem like a very long list of side effects, it’s important to remember that most side effects are transitory in nature and won’t last long. And the others can be avoided—or at least minimized—by staying in close contact with your doctor throughout the entire process of finding an antidepressant that’s right for you.

1. Mayo Clinic, “Depression (major depression): Antidepressants: Selecting one that’s right for you,” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/antidepressants/HQ01069, accessed September 10, 2011.
2. Mayo Clinic, “Depression (major depression): Antidepressants: Get tips to cope with side effects,” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/antidepressants/MH00062, accessed September 10, 2011.

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