Your Guide to Treating Depression

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7 Signs Your Depression Medication Side Effects Aren’t Worth It

  • Woman looking worried or troubled
    When are depression medication side effects too much?
    Antidepressants are good at relieving moderate to severe depression symptoms, but they can cause side effects such as nausea, weight gain, and fatigue. Though severe side effects of depression treatment are rare, even mild side effects can be bothersome if they persist. Up to 43% of people with major depression stop taking their medicine because of side effects. If you have side effects, don't just go off your antidepressant. Ask your doctor about alternatives, which might mean a dosage change, switching medications, or adding on a medication. Never quit taking an antidepressant without guidance from your doctor about tapering off of it safely.
  • woman-in-bed-looking-at-medicine
    1. Your side effects won't go away.
    It can take some time for your body to get used to a new antidepressant, but you should eventually adjust. Most depression medication side effects will improve within three weeks after you start taking the drug. Less often, a side effect will continue for longer than three weeks, or it won't go away. In that case, it might be time to consider talking to your doctor about switching to a different antidepressant that doesn't cause the side effect you're experiencing.

  • Woman lying on the floor at home, epilepsy, unconsciousness, faint, stroke, accident or other health problem.
    2. Your side effects are serious.
    An intermittent upset stomach, sleepiness, or a headache may not be worth worrying about, but more severe side effects of depression treatment require quick action. Serious bleeding, seizures, and suicidal thoughts are rare but they can happen, and they are definite reasons to make a change. Contact your doctor right away to ask for advice. If your side effects are life threatening, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room as soon as possible.

  • standing on scale
    3. You're losing weight.
    Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common depression medication side effects. When you feel sick to your stomach, it's hard to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Everything you do eat might come back up. First, make sure you’re taking your meds with food. If gastrointestinal side effects don't improve and you're continuing to lose weight, talk to your doctor about switching depression medications. Some classes of antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants, are less likely to cause gastrointestinal problems than the standard selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

  • Sleepy man driving
    4. You need to stay awake.
    Sleepiness might not be an issue if you work a desk job, but it becomes a major problem if you drive a bus, pilot a plane, or perform surgery. You might try taking your antidepressant before bedtime, if your doctor gives you the okay. Or you could ask your doctor about lowering the dose. But if you make these adjustments and you're still too tired to function, it's time to look into a different medication that doesn't cause drowsiness.

  • unhappy couple in bed
    5. Your sex life is toast.
    SSRI antidepressants affect both the desire to have sex and the ability to complete the act. They can reduce your sex drive, make it difficult for men to get an erection (erectile dysfunction), and prevent you from reaching orgasm. Describing depression medication side effects like these to your doctor can be embarrassing, but it's important. Your doctor can switch you to another type of antidepressant that doesn't have these side effects, so you can get back to having a healthy sex life.

  • Rear view of woman in dark room looking through window at home
    6. You feel numb.
    Antidepressants work by increasing levels of the chemical messenger serotonin in your brain. Having more serotonin helps dampen negative moods. The trouble is, some of these drugs can have a blunting effect that makes you feel less emotional overall, including the positive emotions you want to feel. A change in dose might be enough to end the blahs. If the new dose doesn't make you feel better, talk to your doctor about switching depression medications.

  • frustrated African American woman with hand on forehead looking at laptop
    7. You're not getting any benefit.
    You might be able to tolerate depression medication side effects if these drugs are having a positive impact on your life. But if you've been enduring symptoms like nausea, constipation, weight gain, or fatigue with no mood boost, then it's hard to see a reason to continue taking the drug. Your doctor might suggest a new medication or encourage you to add an alternative to medication, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Or, you could try a lifestyle approach like exercise to help you better manage depression. If these strategies still aren’t helping, it’s time to try a new combination of techniques.

Depression Medication Side Effects | Switching Depression Medication

About the Author

Stephanie Watson has been a consumer health writer for more than 20 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Boston University, and has completed TV/radio and copyediting workshops at Stanford University and the University of California Berkeley Extension. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
  1. Is Your Antidepressant Making Life a Little Too Blah? Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/depression/is-your-antidepressant-making-life-a-little-too-blah
  2. Wang SM, Han C, Bahk WM, et al. Addressing the Side Effects of Contemporary Antidepressant Drugs: A Comprehensive Review. CMJ. 2018. DOI: 10.4068/cmj.2018.54.2.101. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5972123/
  3. Antidepressants: Get Tips to Cope With Side Effects. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/antidepressants/art-20049305
  4. What Are the Real Risks of Antidepressants? Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-are-the-real-risks-of-antidepressants
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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 19
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