What are the side effects of antidepressants?
Antidepressants are a common treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Not all antidepressant medications are the same, and there are different types and categories depending on how they work.
Each medication type can have different side effects, risks, and benefits, and your doctor will determine which option is best for your individual needs.
Here are some common types of antidepressants:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These are the first-line option for treating depression. They work by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain. Examples include:
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These are slightly newer drugs than SSRIs and work by increasing the levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain. Examples include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): These work by blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin. Examples include:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): These are among the earliest antidepressants, but they are no longer the first choice for treatment. They work by blocking the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which affects serotonin and norepinephrine breakdown. Examples include:
- Atypical antidepressants: These include drugs that do not fit into the above categories or have a unique mechanism of action. Examples include:
- bupropion (Wellbutrin)
Not everyone taking antidepressants will experience side effects. Some side effects may improve over time, while others may persist or worsen and require medical attention or alternative medication options.
Mild side effects
Mild side effects are common when starting or changing antidepressant medication.
These side effects typically go away on their own or with adjustments to the medication.
Mild side effects may include:
- nausea or upset stomach
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- drowsiness or fatigue (low energy)
- dry mouth
- blurred vision
- constipation or diarrhea
- increased sweating
- sexual dysfunction
- weight gain or loss
- inadequate sleep
It’s essential to let your doctor know if you experience these side effects, especially if they become persistent or bothersome. Your doctor may adjust the medication’s dosage or switch you to a different type.
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Serious side effects
While most side effects are mild and temporary, some antidepressant side effects can be serious. Some may even require immediate medical attention.
Serious side effects may include:
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors: People can experience this side effect across antidepressant types, especially young adults, with black box warnings for those under age 25.
- Seizures: For those with a history of seizures, they can experience them when taking bupropion (Wellbutrin) specifically.
- Allergic reactions: These could occur in people with known allergies, such as sensitivities to ingredients in specific medications.
- Abnormal bleeding or bruising: Increased risk of abnormal bleeding and bruising may link with SSRIs, especially in combination with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This is most common in older adults and those taking blood thinners.
- Blood pressure changes: Tricyclic antidepressants may link with postural low blood pressure.
- Manic or hypomanic episodes: In some people, especially those with bipolar disorder, antidepressant use may induce manic episodes.
- Serotonin syndrome: This is a potentially life threatening condition that can occur when taking multiple medications that increase serotonin levels in the brain.
- Liver injury: This may link specifically with nefazodone (Serzone) treatment.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s best that you seek medical attention immediately.
If you experience suicidal thoughts
- Call a crisis hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255.
- Text HOME to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
- If you feel you’re at immediate risk, reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or healthcare professional. Consider calling 911 or your local emergency number if you can’t get in touch with them.
Antidepressants can interact with other medications, leading to adverse effects.
To be safe, you must inform your doctor of all your medications, including over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, herbal supplements, vitamins, and other recreational substances.
Some medications that can interact with antidepressants include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- blood thinners, such as warfarin or aspirin
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- specific antibiotics, such as linezolid
- alcohol or other sedatives
When to contact a doctor
It’s important to know that everyone reacts differently to medications.
You may not experience any side effects from taking antidepressants, or you may experience mild ones that improve as your body gets used to the treatment. On the other hand, you may experience side effects not commonly associated with the medication, which this article doesn’t include.
If you have recently started experiencing mild symptoms that you think might be side effects from antidepressants, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor. They can help decide whether the symptoms are likely to improve on their own, or if you need to explore other medication options.
If you experience any serious side effects, it’s best that you seek medical assistance immediately. Symptoms like difficulty breathing or suicidal thoughts can be life threatening, so it’s important to get help as soon as you can.
Antidepressant treatment can effectively manage symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions.
But in some people, they can also have side effects that range from mild to severe. Some side effects may improve over time, but others may persist or worsen.
If you experience any symptoms, it’s best to discuss them with your doctor to ensure you get the best treatment and care possible. If your symptoms are severe, you should seek immediate medical attention.
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