Natural substances in your brain may – at times – become imbalanced. Such instances can lead to a few changes in your moods. Antidepressants are drugs used to treat such imbalanced medical conditions. Of the various types of antidepressants, a few are widely used. These popular forms of antidepressants are tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors, noradrenaline and specific serotoninergic antidepressants, etc. Before taking an antidepressant, it is a good practice to know the likely side effects such drugs can trigger.
Antidepressant medications can offer relief from signs of anxiety, depression, mood swings, etc. Since 1950, these drugs are being consumed and their popularity has grown in the past few decades. The side effects of different types of antidepressants are listed below.
The chemical composition of these drugs contain a 3-ringed structure. Hence, these drugs are known as tricyclic antidepressants. These drugs can treat spells of anxiety, muscular pain as well as mood disorders such as depression, persistent pain, inability to focus, etc. The side effects of drugs under this genre are convulsions, sleeping problems, restlessness, problems in sexual health, loss of bodyweight, vomiting, etc. A few leading drugs belonging to this genre of antidepressants are clomipramine, nortriptyline, doxepin, etc.
Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
SNRIs can help in the treatment of mood swings and other related disorders. It increases the presence of norepinephrine as well as serotonin in your brain. These two substances function as neurotransmitters. Similar to SNRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are widely prescribed for the treatment of depression. SSRIs help in enhancing the presence of serotonin in your brain. The most common side effects of these two drugs are drop in blood sugar level, difficulties to pass stool, nausea or stomach upset, diarrhea, decrease in libido, drowsiness, etc. Medical studies have detected suicidal thoughts if these drugs are administered onto younger adults – especially those aged 18 years or less. Most widely consumed drugs in the category include fluoxetine, paroxetine, escitalopram, citalopram, etc.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
These drugs were actively used before the availability of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). The key function of monoamine oxidase inhibitors is to control the breaking down of serotonin and other transmitters in your brain. Such breakdown is prevented by inhibiting an enzyme known as monoamine oxidase. These days, these drugs are used only when modern drugs – such as SNRIs or SSRIs – do not fetch the required results.
Side effects of these monoamine oxidase inhibiting drugs include rashes on skin, blurring of eyesight, feeling dizzy, increase in blood pressure (hypertension), etc. Most commonly used drugs under this genre include selegiline, isocarboxazid, phenelzine, etc.
Noradrenaline and specific serotoninergic antidepressants
Drugs under this genre are used for treating depression as well as anxiety. Most common side effects of these medications are blurring of eyesight, dryness of mouth (owing to dehydration), difficulties to pass stools, feeling excessively dizzy, etc. Mirtazapine is a widely prescribed medication under this genre.
In general, antidepressants are also used for the treatment of a few other disorders. This list includes anxiety-related disorders (including, general anxiety), major depressive spells or disorders, nervousness, restlessness, agitated behavior, bipolar disorders, etc. In the off-label mode (i.e., a medicine is used for a purpose beyond those approved by food and drug administration), these drugs are used for severe episodes of headache, chronic pain as well as sleeplessness.
Long term use of antidepressants
Doctor may prescribe the intake of antidepressants for a fairly long period of time. Studies reveal that the mental condition can improve upon consuming these drugs for at least 5 or 6 months. These studies also indicate that signs of depression and anxiety may relapse if these drugs are discontinued after 9 months. You may need to give some time for the results to kick-in. Moreover, medical research shows that the first signs of improvement can be experienced only after taking the drugs for at least 3 months. If you are suffering from chronic episodes of depression, your treating doctor may advice you to take antidepressants for many years at a stretch.
Use of antidepressants by pregnant or breastfeeding women
Among pregnant women, long term consumption of antidepressants (especially SSRIs) is associated with incidence of congenital defects, risks of miscarriage or giving birth to premature babies. If you are nursing (breastfeeding) a baby, intake of antidepressants can make a few traces of neurotransmitters such as nortriptyline, serotonin, etc. to get into the mother’s milk.
Drowsiness and intake of antidepressants
Antidepressants – not all of them, though – can promote a drowsy feeling. This is actually a good side effect for those who have high levels of stress or anxiety. However, there are some formulations promoting briskness and energy – these drugs are mainly used for those who already feel sleepy or drowsy owing to depression. So, if you feel very drowsy after the intake of antidepressants, it is highly recommended to talk to your treating doctor about this.
Antidepressants and your sexual health
People who consume antidepressants – especially, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – report a decrease in sexual intercourse or a marked reduction in libido. Doctors observe that when the type of antidepressant is changed, some of these signs may go off. In a few cases, your doctor may advise you to take a drug to treat erectile dysfunction along with an antidepressant. Some people may quickly stop the intake of these drugs soon after experiencing a decrease in libido; this can only make things worse. Abrupt discontinuation of antidepressants may are more likely to result in problems associated with withdrawal and can also trigger associated symptoms.
Impact on your bodyweight
The influence of antidepressants on your weight is not studied and documented in a detailed manner. However, many people who consume these drugs have reported changes in their weight. In most cases, people have reported a sudden rise in their bodyweight and in a few remote instances – people have also shed some weight. Clinicians are not able to clearly tell how much of weight gain can be assigned to intake of antidepressants. Dieticians however state change in body weight can also be due to your food habits while you are taking take these drugs. Doctors are actively exploring a few drugs (such as bupropion, etc.) which are considered to carry lesser risks of raising your body weight.
Suicidal instincts or thoughts about suicides while consuming antidepressants
If you are nursing thoughts about suicide while you are consuming antidepressants, you may need to seek psychiatric support without delay. These risks are more pronounced among people who are young or in their mid-age. Those aged 60 years or above, and are taking these drugs are found to be relatively safe from such risks. Young and middle-aged people are advised to go for talk therapy and stay in close touch with the medical team all through their treatment plan.
In sum, the most common side effects of taking antidepressants are weight gain, decrease in libido (sexual desires), weariness or feeling drowsy, sleeping problems, blurring of eyesight, being in an agitated or irritated state of mind, etc. These side effects may vary based on the type of antidepressants prescribed to you. Added precautions are needed if you are pregnant or if you are nursing a baby. In some rare instances – especially for younger adults – antidepressants may trigger thoughts about suicides. In such cases, you advised to talk to a mental health specialist or a therapist for needful counselling and support.