The Devastating Side Effects of Antidepressants

Anxiety and depression are all too common in our society — and no one is exempt. Even some of our most well-known celebrities have battled the blues, and you most likely know plenty of people on medication for depression. You may even experience it yourself. 

Make no mistake about it: Antidepressants do help people. You’ll find plenty of tales of people whose lives improved dramatically after going on medication. But like all medications, antidepressants do have some dangerous side effects.

Types of antidepressants

A bottle of antidepressants laid out on a piece of dark cloth.

Antidepressants affect each person differently. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Because people’s brains are wired differently, there are several different types of antidepressants. However, all antidepressants should have the same result.

The two most common types of antidepressants are SSRIs and SNRIs. SSRIs affect a chemical in your brain called serotonin and are the most commonly prescribed. SNRIs are a combination of serotonin and norepinephrine. Your doctor may prescribe SNRIs because they won’t interact with other medicines. A third option, atypical antidepressants, don’t fall into either category.

No antidepressant is without side effects, and while most are minor, some of them are downright scary. Let’s take a quick look at six serious side effects and what you can do.

1. High blood pressure

A doctor is checking a patient's blood pressure.

Antidepressants could lead to high blood pressure. | iStock.com

It seems unlikely that something designed to regulate the chemicals in your brain can cause your blood pressure to spike, but sadly, elevated blood pressure is a common side effect. Increased levels of serotonin and dopamine play an important role in how these drugs raise blood pressure. It is important to note that depression has been linked to low blood pressure, so the effect could simply be the body trying to regulate.

Next: This side effect can cause even more depression.

2. Insomnia

Senior man can not sleep as he sits up on his bed.

A common side effect that isn’t easy to live with | Photodjo/iStock.com

Unfortunately, many people who take antidepressants are plagued by insomnia. This side effect is especially troubling because a lack of sleep can lead to more clinical depression. In extreme cases, sleep medication may be prescribed to help combat the effects of insomnia.

Next: This is one of the most common side effects.

3. Sexual side effects

A woman sits at the edge of her bed while her partner lays on top of the covers.

Your partner might notice some differences in your sexual appetite. | Nd3000/iStock/Getty Images

One of the most common side effects of antidepressants is a loss of sex drive. This can have a huge impact on the quality of a person’s life. Since antidepressants and a lack of sexual desire go hand in hand, many people are aware that it can happen when they go on medication. But that doesn’t make it easier to deal with.

Next: Many people stop taking their medications because of this side effect.

 4. Weight gain

A man holds his stomach while standing in front of a wall.

Some antidepressants cause weight gain. | iStock.com

Weight gain is such a common side effect of antidepressants that many people stop taking their medications because of it. This is dangerous because it means that people who should be on medication are avoiding it.

The likelihood of gaining weight depends on the antidepressant you’re taking (Paxil is the worst offender), but sadly none of them are exempt from the possibility. Aiming for 30 minutes of exercise every day and eating a healthy diet can help.

Next: Migraine medicine and antidepressants can be a painful combination.

5. Migraines

A woman holds the center of her forehead and nose area while taking off her glasses.

Those on antidepressants often experience headaches or migraines. | Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Your antidepressant could be hurting you in the head. Migraines are more common for people with depression, so people who take SSRIs need to be careful if they’re already on migraine medication. The combination of the two medications can lead to serotonin syndrome, which causes flushing, rapid heart rate, and headaches.

Next: This is the most controversial and devastating side effect.

6. Suicide

A woman sits on a couch looking downward.

In some cases, antidepressants might not work for you. | Tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images

The risk of antidepressants inciting self-destructive actions has been controversial and has never been completely settled. When people feel less helpless but still feel depressed, they may think of suicide as a way out instead of feeling too immobilized to make a plan. For that reason, a decrease in depression symptoms can actually increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.

Next: Here’s the simple thing you should do.

What to do

A doctor and patient talk in an office.

Your doctor should know of all the side effects you experience. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re on an antidepressant and experience negative side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to switch your medication or give you the tools to help you cope.

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