Antidepressants and Their Side Effects

PerformCare wants give its members the information they need about antidepressants and their side effects.

Antidepressants help balance the chemicals in your brain that affect your mood. People taking antidepressants need to follow their doctors' directions. The medication should always be taken in the right dose for the right amount of time.

It can take 3-4 weeks until the medicine takes effect. Some people take the medications for a short time, and some people take them for much longer.

If you take antidepressants, it is important not to stop taking them without the help of a doctor. If you stop taking the medicine too soon, the depression may return. When it is time to stop, your doctor will help you slowly stop. You can't get addicted or "hooked," on antidepressants, but stopping too quickly can cause withdrawal symptoms.

If a medication does not work, be open to trying another one. You have a better chance of getting better when you try a new medication.

Do not take a double dose if you forgot your medication. Take your next dose at the regular time.

Side effects of antidepressants

Antidepressants can cause mild side effects. These effects usually do not last long. Go to a doctor right away if you have any serious side effects.

The most common side effects include: 

  • Headaches.
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach).
  • Sleeplessness or drowsiness.
  • Agitation (feeling jittery).
  • Sexual problems.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Constipation.
  • Bladder problems.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Drowsiness.

Helpful hints

  • If your medicine upsets your stomach, ask your doctor if you should take it with a meal.
  • If your medicine makes you sleepy during the day or keeps you awake at night, ask your doctor what time you should take it.
  • Don't take depression medicine with alcohol. Alcohol can affect how well the medicine works, cause you to sleep and possibly worsen depression.
  • If you have dry mouth, chew gum or sip water throughout the day.
  • Use over-the-counter medications for diarrhea or constipation.

Adapted from the National Institute of Health, Introduction: Mental Health Medication. This document is in the public domain and can reproduced without permission.