One of the most frequent reasons people decide to stop taking their antidepressant medication is because they experience side effects. Sometimes side effects of antidepressants are quite minor and time-limited, however, if a person isn’t prepared for the possibility of side effects they may take this as a sign they can’t tolerate the antidepressant. It is important to be educated and know the potentials. This article will discuss common antidepressant side effects, and differentiate between the ones that will go away from those that will last for the duration of time on the medication. I will also review 4 dangerous antidepressant medication side effects that, although uncommon, are important to know about.
There are particular side effects from medicine that physicians want to know right away if you have. Akathesia is one of them. Akathesia is a sensation of inner restlessness so bad that it can actually increase the risk of suicide. People suffering from it are unable to sit still and often describe it as a creepy-crawly sensation inside of them. Akathesia treatment usually works pretty quickly. Let’s go over what is akathesia to be sure you can recognize it in the unfortunate chance that you or someone you know experiences it.
Sexual side effects of antidepressants are common yet often people feel too embarrassed to discuss these with their doctor. To make it more complicated, a common symptom of depression is reduced interest in sexual activity. This can then be compounded by the antidepressants sexual side effects. If you are wondering about antidepressant sexual side effects, but too afraid to ask, I am writing this post for you! Here are several facts about antidepressants and sexual side effects so you can be more informed.
Serotonin syndrome is an emergency and can be fatal in extreme cases. It is important to recognize serotonin syndrome symptoms when they are happening because if medications are stopped early most cases remain mild. So what is serotonin syndrome? Let’s review the signs and symptoms of serotonin syndrome so it isn’t missed but also so people have an accurate idea of what it is and don’t worry they have it when they don’t. I will also go over what causes serotonin syndrome to help make more informed decisions about medication.
How will antidepressants make me feel? How do I know if it is working? Before starting antidepressant medications it’s important to know what to expect; both with potential side effects but also what to look for when assessing if there is a benefit. Antidepressant medication is slow to take effect so the benefits can creep up on the person. You will not suddenly be a different person from the effects of antidepressants (and if you are then you are likely having a side effect your physician needs to know about). Antidepressants are not “happy pills”…but will hopefully treat depression so that you can get back to your normal self.
The FDA’s recent approval of Esketamine (Spravato by Janssen Pharmaceuticals) has been met with much excitement (and some controversy) for it’s potential to help people with treatment-resistant depression. Despite it being a potentially life-threatening condition treatment-resistant depression medication options are limited. 12-20% of people diagnosed with major depression don’t respond to conventional antidepressant treatment.
Withdrawal from antidepressants can be uncomfortable if they are not tapered properly. Antidepressant withdrawal symptoms, also called antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, can happen when lowering a dose of the medication or with discontinuation. It is most frequently seen when treatment is abruptly stopped.
Read here to learn all about antidepressant withdrawal:
- Possible symptoms associated with it,
- What your risk is for having it,
- How to minimize your risk, and
- How to treat discontinuation syndrome if you have it.
Antidepressant withdrawal: What is antidepressant discontinuation syndrome?
Discontinuation syndrome can be unpleasant, although in most cases, the symptoms are mild. The symptoms usually last 1-3 weeks and will fade over time without treatment. If an antidepressant is restarted, the withdrawal symptoms will rapidly go away.
Don’t make these 2 common mistakes when deciding if an antidepressant is effective. Many people have inadequate trials on antidepressant medication due to dosing that is too low or taking the medication for too short of a time. Without accurate expectations of treatment, people assume the medicine isn’t effective and discontinue it. So how long does it take for antidepressants to work?
2 Common reasons for inadequate trials of antidepressant medication:
- A person is on a starting dose of the medication and the dose was never raised.
- They stayed on the antidepressant medication for less than the amount of time needed to get a response.
Increase your chance to choose the right medication the first time!
Which antidepressant is right for me? Sometimes we can figure out what is the best antidepressant just by asking the right questions. Before choosing an antidepressant, I think about these 6 questions with my patients. We can frequently narrow down the choices so we know which antidepressant to try first.
If you are considering starting an antidepressant, make sure to read my last post on common side effects of antidepressants, how long the side effects will last, and tips for how to deal with side effects. My next post talks about what to expect for a treatment response from antidepressants (ie the important question of “When will I feel better?”)
It’s important to know what to expect when starting on an antidepressant and to be aware of common side effects of antidepressants. Most commonly, antidepressant side effects happen when a medication is started. With antidepressants side effects are usually manageable and time-limited.
I find when people are aware of potential side effects and how long they may last, they are more tolerant of transitional discomfort while their body gets used to the medicine. If people aren’t aware of the common side effects of antidepressants they may stop the medication assuming they don’t tolerate it.