Side effects of prescription antidepressants – SSRI’s

Which antidepressants your doctor puts you on depends on your symptoms, for my depression over the last 20 years I’ve mostly been on Selective, Seretonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s).

SSRIs ease depression by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that carry signals between brain cells. SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available. SSRIs are called selective because they seem to primarily affect serotonin, not other neurotransmitters.

SSRIs also may be used to treat conditions other than depression, such as anxiety disorders.

Possible side effects of SSRIs may include, among others:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Nervousness, agitation or restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Sexual problems, such as reduced sexual desire or difficulty reaching orgasm or inability to maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision

Less common side effects

Less common side effects of SSRIs can include:

  • bruising or bleeding easily, including vomiting blood or blood in your stools
  • confusion
  • movement problems, such as stiffness or shaking
  • seeing or hearing things that aren’t real (hallucinations)
  • being unable to pass urine

Other issues to discuss with your doctor before you take an SSRI include:

  • Drug interactions. When taking an antidepressant, tell your doctor about any other prescription or over-the-counter medications, herbs or other supplements you’re taking. Some antidepressants can cause dangerous reactions when combined with certain medications or herbal supplements.
  • Serotonin syndrome. Rarely, an antidepressant can cause high levels of serotonin to accumulate in your body. Serotonin syndrome most often occurs when two medications that raise the level of serotonin are combined. These include other antidepressants, certain pain or headache medications, and the herbal supplement St. John’s wort. Signs and symptoms of serotonin syndrome include anxiety, agitation, sweating, confusion, tremors, restlessness, lack of coordination and a rapid heart rate. Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these signs or symptoms.
  • Antidepressants and pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of using specific antidepressants. Some antidepressants may harm your baby if you take them during pregnancy or while you’re breast-feeding. If you’re taking an antidepressant and you’re considering getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about the possible risks. Don’t stop taking your medication without contacting your doctor first, as stopping might pose risks for you.

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