Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.
The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
What are some examples?
There are many types of antidepressants. They include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Some examples are:
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
Some examples are:
- Atypical antidepressants.
- Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
An example is selegiline.
How do they work?
There are many different types of antidepressants that work in slightly different ways. In general, antidepressants increase the level of certain chemicals in the brain. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. This helps improve communication between brain cells over time, which can help you feel better.
What about side effects?
Side effects may vary. They depend on the medicine you take. But common ones include:
- Dry mouth.
- Loss of appetite.
- Diarrhea or constipation.
- Sexual problems. (These may include loss of desire or erection problems.)
- Trouble falling asleep. Or you may wake up a lot at night.
- Weight gain.
- Feeling nervous or on edge.
- Feeling drowsy in the daytime.
Problems with sexual arousal and a lack of interest in sex are common side effects. If this happens to you, talk to your doctor. There are other medicines that may help with these problems.
Mild side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a few weeks. If the side effects bother you, talk with your doctor. You may need a different medicine. Or the doctor may suggest ways to manage your side effects.
General information about side effects
All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.
But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.
If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.
Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
What are some cautions about antidepressants?
Cautions for antidepressants include the following:
- If you plan to stop taking antidepressants, talk with your doctor first about how to do it safely. Your doctor may want you to slowly decrease how much you take. Suddenly stopping can cause side effects. It may also cause your depression to come back or get worse.
- Take your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better. This can help keep you from getting depressed again. Your doctor may want you to take these medicines even longer.
- Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. And talk to your doctor before starting any new medicines. Taking too much antidepressant medicine or taking more than one type of medicine that affects serotonin can lead to a serious condition called serotonin syndrome.
General cautions for all medicines
- Allergic reactions.
- All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
- Drug interactions.
- Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
- Harm during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
- If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if all the medicines you take are safe.
- Other health problems.
- Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. The medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.
Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. That information will help prevent serious problems.
Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
Current as of: June 16, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine