Antidepressants - Issues
This section has information about:
Are there any side effects?
Different antidepressants will have different side effects. The newer antidepressants should have fewer side effects than the older ones. People can have different reactions to medication.
You should get a patient information leaflet with your medication. This leaflet will tell you all the possible side effects you might get. The table below tells you about the common side effects.
Common Side Effects
|| Nausea and vomiting, insomnia, sexual dysfunction (including loss of sex drive and difficulty in reaching orgasm)
|Like SSRIs, can cause high blood pressure
||Dry mouth, blurred vision, drowsiness, weight gain, constipation
Dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation
If you get these symptoms you can talk to your doctor. They may be able to change your dosage or medication.
What if I want to stop taking antidepressants?
If you have been taking antidepressants for a few weeks you should not stop taking them suddenly. Antidepressants are not addictive but your body can become used to them. If you stop taking them suddenly you get withdrawal symptoms.
You should talk to your doctor before stopping your medication. You can stop taking them slowly, which can help reduce withdrawal effects.
People can respond to coming off antidepressants differently. Some people will have no effects at all. Some common withdrawal effects are in the table below.
||Dizziness, feeling irritable, problems sleeping, vivid dreaming, flu-like symptoms (for example feeling sick, headaches, sweating a lot, chills), feeling tearful, ‘shock-like’ feelings
||Memory and concentration problems, movement disorders
||Tiredness, dizziness, light-headedness, headache, sleeplessness, nightmares,
dry mouth, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhoea, nervousness, agitation, confusion, ringing in the ears,
|Electric shock sensations, weakness, sweating, seizures, or flu-like symptoms
||Problems sleeping, dreaming a lot, flu-like symptoms (for example nausea, headaches, excessive sweating, chills).
||Movement problems, feeling and acting high, unusual heart pace
||Drowsiness, anxiety and feeling irritable, sleep disturbance, dreaming a lot, slowed speech and a lack of muscle co-ordination.
Do antidepressants affect other medication?
This section is just a summary. You should tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you take before you start or stop other medications. This includes over the counter medication, herbal or complementary remedies or medicines such as:
- illegal drugs,
- other antidepressants,
- St John’s Wort, or
Read through the medicine leaflet before you start taking any medicine. You can find medicine leaflets online, on the Electronic Medicines Compendium.
Do any foods affect antidepressants?
There are some foods that have an amino acid (protein) called tyramine that you should not eat if you are taking MAOIs. Tyramine can build up in your body if you eat it when you are taking MAOIs. Examples of foods that have this protein are:
- pickled or salted meats or fish,
- overripe fruits and vegetables, and
- Oxo, Marmite, or Bovril.
If you are taking this medication, ask your doctor about any foods that you should not eat.
Does alcohol affect my antidepressants?
Drinking alcohol while taking antidepressants is not advised because alcohol can make depression worse. It can also increase the side effects of some antidepressants, like drowsiness, dizziness and co-ordination problems.
To avoid alcohol-related harm, the NHS recommends that you should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. It's best to spread this evenly over three or more days.
You should not drink certain wines or beers if you are taking MAOIs. You should ask your pharmacist or doctor for more information.
Can I drive when taking antidepressants?
Some antidepressants can affect your ability to drive. You may feel drowsy from your medication, which can affect your reaction time. If your antidepressants make you drowsy you should not drive.
You should tell the DVLA if you are taking medication that may affect your driving. You should also tell them if you have a medical condition that could affect your driving.
You can find out more information about ‘Driving and mental illness’ here.
What else should I consider before taking antidepressants?
Taking antidepressants may affect your sex life. Antidepressants can make you feel tired and can affect your hormones.
Side effects include:
- lower sex drive,
- problems with getting an erection,
- difficulty ejaculating or having an orgasm, and
- poor vaginal lubrication.
If you are having these problems, talk to your doctor. You might be able to change medication, or the amount you take.
You can take some antidepressants if you are pregnant, but you should talk to your doctor. You may want to stay on antidepressants during your pregnancy, if you think your symptoms will come back. Some antidepressants may be better for you during pregnancy.
If you are pregnant, some antidepressants can affect the baby. Some possible effects can be:
- low birth weight,
- being uneasy and bad tempered,
- heart disease, and
- pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the blood vessels between your lungs and heart).
Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant, or plan on getting pregnant.
Small amounts of antidepressants can pass into your breast milk. Talk to your doctor or midwife about the risks and benefits of breastfeeding. Some antidepressants are better if you are breastfeeding, and your doctor can tell you about this.
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