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antidepressant side effects | Beliefnet | Terezia Farkas | depression help

Do antidepressants cause side effects? Yes, antidepressants can react poorly with your body and create unwanted side effects. Some side effects are temporary and will go away. Certain antidepressants will also change your personality. But some side effects don’t go away and become real physical or emotional problems.

Side effects of antidepressants

Antidepressants take time to work. Many depressed people don’t see or notice any mood improvement until after 4 weeks of starting on an antidepressant. Sometimes results aren’t seen until as much as 8 to 12 weeks. That’s a long time when you’re depressed and hoping to feel better.

Antidepressants try to balance the chemicals in your brain to help improve your mood. Not all antidepressants are alike. Antidepressants use different targeting techniques to get chemicals working well in your brain. Because an antidepressant is made to change how your brain functions, there are going to be some side effects.

Side effects are usually temporary. They last only as long as your body is getting used to the medication. Sometimes side effects are allergic reactions to a drug. Some side effects are vague or hidden and aren’t noticed until much later in the treatment process. In some cases, side effects don’t ever go away.

So it’s a good idea to know what are the side effects of your particular antidepressant. Some common side effects of antidepressants are:

Problems with sex. This ranges from loss of sexual interest to wanting lots of sex. There’s also erectile dysfunction and decreased orgasm.

Weight gain. You’re gaining weight even though you’re not eating any differently than before. Some weight gain can be caused by edema, which happens when your small blood vessels leak fluid into nearby tissue.

Emotional numbness. Not feeling like yourself. Reduced positive feelings, caring less about others, feeling like you’re addicted, and feeling suicidal.

Physical symptoms and pain. Nausea. Dry mouth which can cause problems for teeth. Constipation. Joint and muscle pain. Headaches and rashes. Muscle cramps or weakness. Shaking or tremors in body parts.

Insomnia.

Fatigue or drowsiness.

Blurred vision or dizziness.

Bruising or bleeding easily.

Antidepressants can change personality.

Antidepressants are supposed to change mood. But they can cause changes in your behaviour. Because of a side effect, you might be doing things differently than you would normally. So if you’re suddenly gaining weight but not eating any more than before, you might start eating even less because you want to lose weight. These kinds of behaviour changes are common.

But antidepressants can change your personality. New research shows that antidepressants like Paxil actually change personality. Paxil changes a person’s neuroticism and extraversion. Neuroticism is your tendency to be negative in your outlook on life. Not surprisingly, the more negative you are, the more your mood gets dark and the more unstable your emotions become. Extraversion is how outgoing you are.

Paxil is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The research shows that people taking Paxil had a drop in neuroticism, and an increase in extraversion. These people had changes to personality, not just mood. These people developed a positive outlook on life and did not feel socially anxious or shy. 

“Psychiatrist Peter Kramer says that the new research proves his theory, that patients treated with antidepressants often become more at ease socially and less sensitive to rejection.”

Paxil isn’t used much nowadays because it has severe side effects. But Prozac and Zoloft (sertraline) which are two other SSRIs that are commonly used, change personality the same way as Paxil. 

Know your antidepressant

It’s important to know your antidepressant. What are the possible side effects? What happens if you are taking other medications at the same time? How will the antidepressant affect my brain structure and personality?

An antidepressant becomes less effective over time. So the antidepressant you’re taking works well for now, but in a few months you may need to increase the dosage. It’s also not unusual to switch to another antidepressant as side effects happen or return.

Like any other medication, you need to know what your antidepressant will do for you. You need to know the side effects. Speak bluntly with your doctor about any worries or problems you have. Don’t keep symptoms to yourself. Don’t suddenly stop using an antidepressant even if you have side effects, because suddenly stopping the medication will create other serious medical issues for you. 

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