Antidepressants: The Pros and Cons

The Effectiveness of Antidepressants

For most patients, a prescribed antidepressant only starts to take full effects after several weeks of taking the recommended daily dosage.

While it is human nature to come off medication once you start to feel better, this should only ever be done under the guidance of your doctor. Stopping too early can lead to withdrawals symptoms, not to mention the return of your depression.

It is worth noting that a large percentage of patients do not respond to their prescribed antidepressants. For those patients, all is not lost, as switching to a different medication or adding another may lead to improved results. Others may see no response, no matter what they try. Whatever the case, keeping an open dialog with your doctor is important.

Common Side Effects of Antidepressants

The most common antidepressant side effects include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Diarrhea
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Sexual issues

Your doctor may need to prescribe several different medications before finding the one that works for you.

Potential Serious Health Risks

When prescribing an antidepressant, your doctor should talk to you about the potential health risks, some of which are discussed below:

Suicidal thoughts: Back in 2004, manufacturers of antidepressants were prompted by the FDA to add warning labels to all antidepressant medications. The labels are used to warn of the potential for an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior in both children and adolescents in the initial treatment phase, as well as during an increase in dosage. The FDA required the warning to include young adults up to the age of 24 on labels after 2007.

You should immediately call your doctor if you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts. Other options include a visit to the emergency room at your local hospital or a call to the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Birth defects: Pregnant women run the risk of harm to the fetus when taking antidepressants. If you are pregnant, plan on becoming so, or are breastfeeding, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about all the potential health risks that come when taking antidepressants.

High blood pressure: This health risk is most common in those taking MAOI’s for depression. Foods that contain high levels of the chemical tyramine should be avoided. These foods include, but are not limited to certain cheeses, pickles, and wines, as well decongestants and other medications. The combination of this chemical and MAOI’s can lead to a dangerous spike in blood pressure that can bring about a stroke. Talk to your doctor about a suitable diet when you are prescribed antidepressants.