What Are the Side Effects of Antidepressants?

Antidepressants can bring relief from many symptoms of depression. But side effects are often part of the package. Some aren’t fun to deal with. Others you can manage. In rare cases, they can be serious and your doctor may need to switch your medication.

The Usual Suspects

Everyone reacts to medicines differently, but some side effects are typical. These include:

You may have many, a few, or none of these. Keep in mind that some of these may go away a few weeks after you start your antidepressant.

Dealing With Them

Some general things can help you ease side effects when taking your antidepressants:

  • Eat small, more frequent meals throughout the day to help your digestion.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Cut back on sweets and saturated fats
  • Eat plenty of veggies and fruits.
  • Keep a food diary so you can see if something you’re eating is ramping up your side effects.
  • Practice relaxation methods, like deep breathing or yoga.
  • Get regular exercise.

Depending on which side effects you have, there are specific things that can help:

Nausea: Suck on sugarless candy, and ask about a slow-release version of your antidepressant. Take the medication at night so the nausea doesn’t bother you as much.

Sexual issues: Have sex right before you take your antidepressant, when effects are lowest. Talk to your doctor about other things that can help, like estrogen cream or erectile dysfunction medication.

Fatigue: Take your meds at night before bed. Try to have a short nap during the day, too.

Trouble sleeping: Take your antidepressant in the morning instead of close to bedtime, stay away from caffeine, and ask your doctor about any medicines that can help you sleep.

Dry mouth: Carry water with you throughout the day, suck on ice chips, or chew gum. Try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth. Talk to your doctor about medication that can help you make more saliva.

Blurred vision: Ask your doctor about special eye drops that can moisten your eyes.

Constipation: Eat plenty of high-fiber foods, or take a fiber supplement. Stool softeners can help, too.

Dizziness: Move slowly, especially when standing up. Take your antidepressant at bedtime.

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When to Call Your Doctor

Some side effects are serious. If you have any of these symptoms, tell your doctor right away:

  • Thoughts about or attempts at suicide
  • More feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Feeling very agitated or restless
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble sleeping
  • New or worsening irritability
  • Aggression or violence
  • Hallucinations
  • Acting out dangerous impulses
  • Feeling hyperactive
  • Other unusual changes in behavior or mood

Sometimes, antidepressants can mix with other medicines and pose life-threatening problems. Pay close attention to any new symptoms or ones that get worse.

Making a Switch

If the side effects of your current antidepressant are too much, talk to your doctor about a change. It’s important not to stop taking your antidepressant without talking to your doctor first. Quitting cold turkey can cause withdrawal symptoms or make your depression worse.

When you switch, your doctor will decide which method will be best to avoid withdrawal. Your doctor will watch you closely while you go through this process.

There are many ways to change your medicine, including:

Conservative switch:

  • You'll gradually lower your dose of your current antidepressant until you stop.
  • You won't take any medication for a specific number of days.
  • After that, you'll start your new medicine at the full dose.

Moderate switch:

  • You'll gradually lower your dose of your current antidepressant until you stop.
  • You won't take any medication for a specific number of days.
  • Next, you'll start the new medication at a low dose and raise it gradually.

Direct switch:

  • You'll stop your current antidepressant.
  • The next day, you'll start the new antidepressant at full dose.

Cross-taper:

  • You'll gradually lower the dose of your current antidepressant until you stop.
  • As your old antidepressant dose goes down, you'll start taking the new antidepressant at a low dose.
  • You'll take more of the new antidepressant as you take less of the old antidepressant until you’ve stopped the first and are at a full dose for the second.

Only your doctor can decide which of these methods is right for you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on September 12, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Antidepressants: Get tips to cope with side effects.”

University of Wisconsin Health: “Depression: Dealing With Medicine Side Effects.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Mental Health Medications.”

Australian Prescriber: “Switching and stopping antidepressants.”

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