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Antidepressants: Myths and Facts About SSRIs

SSRI Myth or Fact: If I Start an SSRI, I'll Have to Take It Forever.

Most people with a first lifetime episode of depression take an SSRI for a limited period of time. General treatment guidelines for depression suggest continuing treatment for at least several months after symptoms have improved.

Depression, however, returns periodically in many people. The same is true for many other conditions that SSRIs treat. For this reason, a doctor may recommend long-term treatment as prevention against future episodes or exacerbations of symptoms.

Bottom Line: Most people take SSRIs for a limited period of time. People with relapsing depression might benefit from long-term SSRI use.

SSRI Myth or Fact: Taking an SSRI Will Make Me Fat.

People react to SSRIs in different ways. Some people taking SSRIs gain weight while others lose weight. And some SSRIs may make you more likely to gain or lose weight than others. 

Bottom Line: SSRIs may cause you to gain or lose weight. It is important to discuss concerns about weight and other side effects with your doctor when considering the available medication treatments for depression.

SSRI Myth or Fact: An SSRI Will Stop Me From Feeling Anything.

Some people report a general dulling of emotion while taking SSRIs. On the other hand, people whose emotions are shut down by depression describe finally being able to feel again.

These are difficult effects to study and are not followed by the FDA or reported by drug manufacturers. Again, different SSRIs may create different effects in different people.

Bottom Line: Taking an SSRI can change how you experience emotions. If an antidepressant creates unpleasant feelings, you should discuss it with your health care provider.

SSRI Myth or Fact: Taking an SSRI Will Ruin My Sex Life.

SSRIs do affect libido and sexual experience in many people. Men often experience delayed ejaculation. Men and women may have a decreased intensity or ability to orgasm. Estimates vary, but research shows between 20% and 45% of people will experience some decline in sexual function. 

Wellbutrin is a non-SSRI depression medicine that does not diminish sex drive or intensity. It can be taken with an SSRI as an add-on therapy that may provide more potent antidepressant effects, and sometimes may help to reduce sexual side effects of an SSRI. This often helps people experience more normal sex lives.

Depression and anxiety themselves put the brakes on many people's sex lives. Some people report that lifting of depression brings back their desire for sex.

Bottom Line: SSRIs commonly cause a decline in sexual function. Talk to your health care provider to learn what you can do to overcome this frustrating side effect.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on May 17, 2012

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