Antidepressants: Get tips to cope with side effectsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Antidepressants can cause unpleasant side effects. Symptoms such as nervousness, headache and upset stomach are common initially. For many people, these improve within a few weeks of starting an antidepressant. In some cases, however, antidepressants cause side effects that don't go away.
Talk to your doctor or mental health provider about any side effects you're having. Rarely, antidepressants can cause serious side effects that need to be treated right away.
If side effects seem intolerable, you may be tempted to stop taking an antidepressant or to reduce your dose on your own. Don't do it. Your symptoms may return, and stopping your antidepressant suddenly may cause a withdrawal-like reaction.
Click on the tabs at the left to see coping strategies for the most common antidepressant side effects.
Nausea typically begins within a week of starting an antidepressant. It may go away after a few weeks, when your body adjusts to the medication.
Increased appetite, weight gain
You may gain weight because of fluid retention or lack of physical activity, or because you have a better appetite when your depression symptoms ease up. Some antidepressants are more likely to cause weight gain than others. Antidepressants that may be less likely to cause weight gain include:
Sexual side effects
Most antidepressants cause sexual side effects that can last throughout treatment. They can include decreased sex drive and difficulty reaching orgasm. Some antidepressants may cause trouble getting or keeping an erection (erectile dysfunction). For many people, these are the most bothersome side effects of antidepressant therapy — and the most common reason people stop taking their medication. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are more likely to cause sexual side effects than are other antidepressants.
Fatigue and drowsiness are common, especially during early weeks of treatment with an antidepressant.
You may experience insomnia because some antidepressants give you an energy boost. While that may sound appealing, it can also make it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep — and you may be tired during the day.
Dry mouth is a common side effect of many antidepressants.
Blurred vision is a common side effect, but it usually goes away on its own within a couple of weeks of starting an antidepressant. With certain antidepressants, it may be an ongoing bother.
Constipation is often associated with tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) because they disrupt normal functioning of the digestive tract and other organ systems. Other antidepressants sometimes cause constipation as well.
Dizziness is more common with tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) than with other antidepressants. These medications can cause low blood pressure, resulting in dizziness. This side effect is more common in older people.
Agitation, restlessness, anxiety
Agitation, restlessness or anxiety can result from the stimulating effect of certain antidepressants. Although having more energy can be a good thing, it may mean you can't relax or sit still even if you want to. Be alert for racing or impulsive thoughts along with high energy. If these develop, talk to your doctor right away because they may be signs of bipolar disorder or another serious disorder.
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- Bostwick JM. A generalist's guide to treating patients with depression with an emphasis on using side effects to tailor antidepressant therapy. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2010;85:538.
- Mental health medications. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/medications/complete-publication.shtml. Accessed Sept. 17, 2010.