Antidepressants, along with psychotherapy, are the first-line recommended treatments for people with depression. Antidepressants are safe for most people, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with any side effects. At the end of the day, whether or not you choose to take antidepressants for your depression symptoms is between you and your doctor. Here are some effects of antidepressants to be aware of so that you can make the choice that’s right for you.
What Are Antidepressants?
If you’ve wondered how can depression be treated and begun researching your options, you’ve probably read up on the different forms of medication.
Antidepressants are a type of psychiatric medication that’s used to combat symptoms of depression. They’re also sometimes prescribed to help with other mental health disorders, like anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
There are four main categories of antidepressant medications:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Prozac and Zoloft
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), like Cymbalta
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), like Nardil
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), like Tofranil
Other medications that don’t fall into these four categories are called atypical antidepressants. The most commonly known atypical antidepressant is Wellbutrin.
In general, SSRIs and SNRIs tend to cause fewer side effects than older classes of antidepressants like MAOIs and TCAs. For this reason, doctors usually start by recommending an SSRI or SNRI. If these don’t work for you, then they might recommend that you try another type of antidepressant.
What Are My Treatment Options for Depression?
Side Effects of Antidepressants
If you’ve ever Googled, “Am I depressed?” you’ve probably fallen down the rabbit hole of reading about treatment options for depression. Antidepressants are one form of treatment that can be incredibly helpful for someone dealing with depression.
Yes, antidepressant medications (like with most other types of medications) can come with side effects. Most side effects of antidepressants are mild and temporary and go away with time. There is a small risk for more serious and long-lasting side effects, which we won’t discuss here. For more information on all of the risks associated with the antidepressant you’re taking, talk to your doctor.
Whether or not you experience the side effects of antidepressants depends on each person. Doctors typically start people off on small doses of antidepressants to give their bodies time to adjust to the medication. Here are 5 side effects of antidepressants to know about.
Many people report experiencing stomach problems when they start on medication, but this side effect is usually temporary. Some common stomach problems that can be an effect of antidepressants include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.
You may also experience changes in your appetite. Some people lose their appetite, but other people experience an increased appetite — which might cause them to gain weight. For most people, these symptoms come on while their body is adjusting to the medication but go away with time. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about potential weight gain.
Some people find that antidepressants (particularly SSRIs and SNRIs) affect their sexual life. Antidepressant medication might make you have less of a sex drive. They might also affect your ability to orgasm. Some people may experience difficulties in maintaining an erection. Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant that’s usually recommended for people who experience sexual side effects with other antidepressants.
Fatigue and drowsiness
Many people experience drowsiness and fatigue while getting adjusted to their antidepressant medication. If you’re feeling very sleepy during the day, talk to your doctor about adjusting the time you take your medication so that you can avoid being tired during the day. Make sure you don’t drive or operate heavy machinery if you feel like your antidepressant is making you drowsy.
Some people experience dry mouth with antidepressants, especially MAOIs and tricyclic antidepressants. A dry mouth is uncomfortable, but it is rarely serious. To combat dry mouth while taking antidepressants, make sure you drink plenty of water. You can also try sucking on ice chips or chewing gum.
Agitation, restlessness, or tremors
Some people experience agitation, restlessness, or tremors when they take antidepressant medication. This is due to the energizing effect that antidepressants can have (to counteract the symptoms of depression). More energy is a great thing when you’ve been battling depression, but when it comes on too quickly, it can make you feel agitated and uncomfortable.
Despite Side Effects, Antidepressants Aren’t All Bad
If you’re researching medication options and wondering how can depression be treated, you may feel overwhelmed with all the information about side effects. The possibility of experiencing some of these side effects might scare some people, but the reason so many people take antidepressants is that they’re safe and effective for most people.
Although you might experience some side effects, most of them are mild and temporary. All medications come with possible side effects, not just antidepressants. Your doctor will only recommend antidepressants for you if they feel that their benefits will outweigh the risk for side effects.
Especially if you have severe depression, the dangers and suffering of living with depression may outweigh the risks and unpleasantness of taking antidepressants, even if you get side effects. In these cases, your doctor will likely recommend that you continue taking antidepressants despite the side effects. Always talk to your doctor about any side effects you are experiencing.
You can also always talk to your provider about changing or getting off your medication if the side effects are too much for you. Many people experience uncomfortable side effects with some antidepressants, but not others. It sometimes requires a process of trial-and-error before finding the antidepressant that works for you.
It’s important that no matter what the side effects are, you never stop taking your medication without consulting with your doctor first. Quitting your antidepressants cold-turkey can cause extreme side effects as well, so talk to your provider about how you can stop taking them safely if that’s the right course of action for you.
Mental Health Services in San Antonio
Genesis Behavioral Health is a comprehensive mental health clinic offering a holistic, integrated approach to helping you heal. Whether you choose to pursue antidepressants as a treatment for depression or not, we can help you explore your options and learn the effects of antidepressants.
Reach out to our office today to learn how we can support you on your journey.