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Common Side Effects of Antidepressants: a Double Challenge

It seems to be a bitter and even cruel scoff that people struggling to overwhelm some health problems must also almost inevitably face with the side effects medications cause.

Since “antidepressants are among the most widely prescribed medications in the world” (as confirms Mr. Greer Murphy Jr., MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences), it is vitally important to draw attention to their side effects, which often occur to be debilitating.

It looks like a double challenge; therefore one must be well-equipped with knowledge of what obstacles can occur on the way to rescue from depression and how to overcome them.

Insomnia is a usual reaction to SSRIs antidepressants (serotonin-reuptake inhibitors), like Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa or Prozac. They are said to artificially raise serotonin to sometimes dangerous levels; therefore, highly stimulating the central nervous system. It is better to use these medications in the morning.

The good way to improve the night sleep is to avoid caffeinated drinks and eliminate naps in the afternoon and evening, as well as to exercise and increase physical activities during the day-time.

Weight gain is usually provoked by tricyclic antidepressants (Elavil, Aventyl, Asendin, Anafranil, Surmontil, Norpramin, and Vivactil), MAO inhibitors (Nardil and Marplan) and lithium.

The avoidance of weight gain is possible by exercising, dieting or switching to other antidepressants like bupropion (Wellbutrin), fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft) and trazodone (Desyrel) (SSRIs), which are not associated with weight gain inducing.

Sexual dysfunction is one the most awesome side effects of antidepressants. Remarkably, about 60% of those treated with them report of the decreasing of sexual function (both men and women). The state is most often caused by MAOIs and SSRIs. Some scholars suggest that these medications have anesthetic effect on the emotions, blunting them and replacing by indifference. Besides, they confirm that only tianeptine can be classified as a pure antidepressant.

Additionally, bupropion and mirtazapine are believed not to change sexual function significantly. But before switching to other types of antidepressants, it is necessary to be sure that sexual dysfunction is caused by medications not by the depression itself.

Anticholinergic side effects usually include dry mouth, constipation and urinary hesitation. These distressing feelings are mostly the results of tricyclics activity; though, MAOIs can sometimes produce the same effect.

The best advice in this situation is paying attention to the food consumed. Greater amounts of fruits and vegetables and water are preferable. Stool softeners might be of great help as well.

Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sedation, and “feeling medicated” most often occur at the beginning of treatment and usually pass away in two weeks. Recent researches show that the main reason of these side effects is overdose, especially in women. The possible way out is to start treatment with lower doses of antidepressants. There is a problem here, however. The majority of physicians either do not support this idea or are unaware of the option (mostly because of the indifference to the problem). Therefore, patience is what usually needed in the situation.

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One more important note: long-lasting usage and antidepressants overdose can cause some other severe side effects, as brain damage (often manifested through facial and body tics), panic attacks, disposition to violence, homicide or suicide. To be on the safe side, report you healthcare provider about the least suspicion about any of those things.

Hopefully, the enemy is not that dangerous when everyone is aware of him. Now, perhaps, it is high time to meet a challenge and conquer that evil.


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