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Do Antidepressants Have Any Side Effects?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Antidepressants are medicines that provide relief from symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders and seasonal affective disorder among other conditions. They are prescribed usually for six months to one year and should be taken exactly as directed by the doctor.

Potential Side Effects of antidepressants are:

1) Nausea

This is the most common side effect of antidepressant drugs. These drugs affect the CNS (Central Nervous System) and the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects your mood. With the increase in serotonin levels, the medicines stimulate serotonin receptors in the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. The combined effect on both the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract makes you nauseous. If you stop the medication all of a sudden, you can feel nauseous because of antidepressant withdrawal. The body doesn’t register the sudden change and reacts, resulting in uneasiness and the urge to vomit.

Loss of appetite is a common symptom in upto 50 Percent of patients. Heart rhythm abnormalities is a serious life threatening complication of some antidepressants.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

2) Lower Libido

This is another very common side effect of antidepressants but it isn’t addressed too often. About 50% of patients on antidepressants complain about decreased libido. Symptoms include vaginal dryness, low libido and erectile dysfunction. As the medications increase serotonin levels in the body, the sense of calmness and stability can lower the libido and prevent you from achieving an orgasm.

3) Weight Gain

Anomaly in weight comes with depression. Some people lose weight initially but start gaining it back after taking antidepressants. With improved mood and appetite, some people end up gaining a lot of weight. With increased levels of serotonin due to antidepressants, people start craving carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta, bread and desserts that might lead to unwanted weight gain.

4) Fatigue

Have you been feeling extremely tired and drowsy after taking your antidepressant medications? They might be side effects of the drug that you have been prescribed. While antidepressants work on the mood-affecting neurotransmitters, they also have some effect on other chemicals in the brain like histamine and acetylcholine. The changes in these neurotransmitters might make the body weak and make you feel fatigued throughout the day.

Anti-depressant medications are usually considered safe even when a female gets pregnant or is breastfeeding, it is recommended to continue taking the current anti-depressants in consultation with your psychiatrist to avoid worsening of the symptoms.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

Also Read: What Is Serotonin Syndrome: A Comprehensive, Research-Based Explanation

5) A Dry Mouth

Does your mouth feel unusually dry once you pop in your antidepressant? Do not worry as it is a very common side effect of the medications. As discussed above, antidepressants affect neurotransmitters other than mood-inducing ones like serotonin. Changed levels of histamine and acetylcholine result in dry mouth. That, in turn, makes the throat dry due to which talking, swallowing become irritable.

6) Insomnia

Fatigue is a direct result of insomnia that in turn is a possible  antidepressant drug side effect. Antidepressants affect serotonin, adrenaline, and acetylcholine that are known to shape sleep and wakefulness. When the levels of these chemicals are altered, the sleep cycle gets altered too resulting in insomnia. Most side effects do not stay for longer than a few weeks but if sleeplessness persists, do not take it lightly as it will make you feel terrible during the daytime.

7) Constipation

Have you been facing problems with bowel movements? Have passing bowels become very difficult and/or less frequent than normal? Your antidepressants might be causing them. Antidepressant drugs block the action of a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine. As a result, muscular contractions diminish and the passage for the bowels becomes drier causing constipation.

8) Dizziness

Antidepressants sometimes cause low blood pressure. It results in dizziness. Be careful when you go about your day whilst on these medications. The abrupt withdrawal from antidepressants can also cause dizziness.

9) Restlessness, Agitation & Anxiety

Antidepressants make your brain cells more active. While all that increased levels of energy may feel great, it sometimes tags along with restlessness and agitation as side effects. Relaxing or staying still in one place becomes very tough. You might start feeling anxious, irritable and impulsive.

Also Read: Treatment for Depression

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Antidepressants work by altering the chemical balance in the brain. They help to correct the levels and pathways of serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline that regulate moods in the brain. Antidepressants are usually prescribed along with talk therapy. As with most medicines, antidepressant drugs have side effects too. If the side effects of antidepressants do not go away after a week or two, consult your doctor.

It is important to keep track of the side effects once you start taking your antidepressants. Do not wait too long before going to the doctor if any of the problems affect you too much and for a long time. Together, you and your doctor can come up with viable solutions that can subdue the bad  effects of antidepressants.

Also Read: Different Types of Antidepressants

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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