Antidepressant medications are considered a first-line treatment for major depressive disorders, and for many people, they bring relief from many of depression’s most debilitating symptoms. Unfortunately, though, these medications can also come with a long list of potential side effects.
According to a review published in the journal Psychiatry, nearly 40% of people who take antidepressants experience side effects from their medication. Of those side effects, 25% were considered very or extremely bothersome. So while these medications can certainly work, it’s also important to note that they may come with unintended side effects.
What kind of undesirable, secondary effects might you experience when taking antidepressants? While everyone responds to medications differently, some side effects are more typical than others. Here are the most common side effects of taking depression medication.
Common Physical Side Effects
When you begin taking a new depression medication, you may experience a range of physical side effects that are usually mild and temporary. However, some people find that the unwanted, secondary physical effects of taking these medications are more severe and last a while.
The most common physical issues that stem from taking antidepressants are:
- Blurred vision
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Skin rashes
- Increased sweating
When taking a new medication — even if you’ve taken other antidepressants in the past — you may experience many of the above symptoms, just a few, or none at all. Often, these side effects are manageable with minor lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet, getting plenty of sleep, staying well hydrated, and exercising regularly.
Many people find that their symptoms improve significantly or disappear altogether after approximately two to three weeks.
Although weight gain is technically a physical side effect like the ones mentioned above, this particular side effect doesn’t typically happen right away. Rather, weight gain often occurs as a long-term side effect of taking antidepressants.
Putting on weight suddenly and relatively quickly is one of the most common reasons people stop taking their depression medication or seek alternative medications and/or treatment. Some antidepressants are known for causing more weight gain than others.
Like physical side effects, many people find they suffer from sleep disturbances immediately after starting a new depression medication. Most people who suffer from these side effects experience the following issues:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking easily throughout the night
Certain antidepressants are known for causing more sleep serious issues than others, and according to researchers, women tend to suffer from these issues more often than men.
Increased Daytime Fatigue
Some depression medications have a sedative effect, so they naturally cause daytime sleepiness. Other antidepressants tend to cause sleep disturbances, so the people who take them experience excessive tiredness during the day.
According to researchers, antidepressant-related drowsiness and fatigue are quite common, but these symptoms can be managed by taking short naps, if possible. Sedating medications should be taken at night, if possible, to prevent daytime sleepiness. Regular exercise can also help mitigate the drowsiness associated with these medications.
Heightened anxiety is another fairly common early side effect of taking new depression medications. Because these medications boost levels of serotonin in the brain, they can trigger anxiety-related symptoms as the brain adjusts to the new, higher level of serotonin. These symptoms may include:
- Panic attacks
- Trouble staying still
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
These issues often go away within a few weeks of taking a new medication, but if they don’t, your doctor can reduce your dosage to allow your brain to adjust more gradually. Or your body may be better suited to a different medication.
Sexual Side Effects
Many people experience issues with arousal and sexual pleasure after taking antidepressants for a long time. According to one study, the likelihood of experiencing antidepressant-related sexual side effects can range from 30% to 93%, depending on the type of medication in question. The study concluded that the overall incidence of sexual dysfunction in people taking depression medications, regardless of type, was 59.1%.
If you or a loved one lives with major depression, and antidepressants have triggered unmanageable side effects or haven’t been effective, our team at Prime Behavioral Health in Southlake, TX may be able to help. We specialize in transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy, which is a highly effective, alternative treatment for major depressive disorders. To learn more about us and how TMS therapy works, don’t hesitate to call our office at 817-778-8884 or contact us online.