Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/10/2021
Depression is a mood disorder that affects more than 264 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
If you have recently been diagnosed with depression, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antidepressant to treat your symptoms. Some antidepressants are also used to treat other mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders.
Antidepressants are effective at treating depression for most people. However, like many other medications, some antidepressants can cause side effects.
Below, we’ve listed the most common antidepressants that are prescribed to treat depression, as well as the side effects you may experience if you’re prescribed this type of medication.
We’ve also explained what you should do if you develop noticeable side effects while using an antidepressant.
Several different types of antidepressants are used to treat depression and other mental health issues. The most common types of antidepressants include:
These are the most common drugs for treating depression. They work by increasing the level of serotonin that circulates in your brain.
Common SSRIs include fluoxetine (sold as Prozac®), paroxetine (Paxil®), escitalopram (Lexapro®), sertraline (Zoloft®), citalopram (Celexa®) and fluvoxamine (Luvox®).
These medications work by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine that circulates in your brain and body.
Common SNRIs include duloxetine (Cymbalta®), levomilnacipran (Fetzima®), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq®) and venlafaxine (Effexor® XR).
These are older medications used to treat depression. TCAs are less commonly used than newer antidepressants, but are still prescribed to treat certain forms of depression.
Common TCAs include nortriptyline (Pamelor®), desipramine (Norpramin®), imipramine (Tofranil®), mirtazapine (Remeron®), doxepin and others.
These are also older medications prescribed to treat depression. Although effective for some people, MAOIs have a considerable risk of interacting with medications and certain foods.
Common MAOIs include isocarboxazid (Marplan®), selegiline (Emsam®), phenelzine (Nardil®) and tranylcypromine (Parnate®).
Several other medications are prescribed to treat depression and other mental health disorders. These medications are often referred to as “atypical” antidepressants.
Other antidepressants include bupropion (Wellbutrin® SR), esketamine (Spravato®) and trazodone (Desyrel).
Although all antidepressants can cause side effects, some antidepressants carry a higher risk of causing certain side effects than others. You can see an in depth comparison between two commonly prescribed antidepressants in our blog: Wellbutrin vs Zoloft: Differences & Similarities.
For example, certain side effects are more common with older medications such as MAOIs than with newer-generation antidepressants.
You may need to try several different antidepressants before finding a medication that improves your symptoms without causing side effects.
Our full list of antidepressants provides further information on the medications listed above, as well as other common treatments for depression.
Although antidepressants are safe, effective and easy to use for most people, many people who are prescribed antidepressants experience side effects.
In fact, research suggests that more than 80 percent of people prescribed antidepressants have at least one side effect from their medication during treatment.
Most side effects from antidepressants are mild. However, some can be more serious and have a noticeable impact on your quality of life.
Below, we’ve listed the most common side effects of antidepressants, along with information on the steps you can take to manage any side effects that you experience.
Nausea is a common side effect of antidepressants, including newer classes of antidepressants such as SSRIs and SNRIs.
According to research published in Psychiatric Times, approximately one quarter of people who use antidepressants report experiencing nausea, typically shortly after starting treatment.
Nausea usually improves on its own over the course of two to three weeks. However, about a third of people who use antidepressants experience persistent nausea.
If you experience nausea after starting an antidepressant, taking your medication with a small amount of food or shortly before you go to bed may help to calm your stomach and make this side effect less severe.
You may also benefit from dividing the dosage of your antidepressant -- something you’ll need to discuss with your healthcare provider.
Drowsiness and sedation are common side effects of many antidepressants, particularly older medications such as tricyclic antidepressants.
In fact, some antidepressants, such as doxepin, are also prescribed as sleep aids due to their drowsiness-inducing effects.
After starting treatment with an antidepressant, you might find that you need to sleep for longer to feel fully rested, or that you simply feel drowsy, tired or fatigued during the daytime.
Although this side effect is most common with older antidepressants, it also occurs with SSRIs and SNRIs. For example, approximately 13 percent of people prescribed fluoxetine developed somnolence (sleepiness) in clinical trials.
To treat drowsiness, your healthcare provider may recommend lowering your dosage or taking your medication close to your bedtime.
Although some people feel sleepy while using antidepressants, others may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep during the night.
Research shows that some SSRIs, including fluoxetine, may increase sleep onset latency (the amount of time required to fall asleep) and reduce sleep efficiency.
SSRIs may also suppress REM sleep, the phase of sleep that typically involves intense, vivid dreaming.
If you find it difficult to fall asleep while using an antidepressant, your healthcare provider may adjust your dosage or switch your medication to one that’s less likely to cause insomnia.
Simple changes to the way you use your medication, such as taking it in the morning instead of at night, may help to make falling asleep easier.
You may also notice improvements by using an over-the-counter sleep aid or sleep medication during treatment.
Antidepressants may affect the function of your salivary glands (the glands inside your mouth that produce saliva), causing you to develop dry mouth.
Research shows that dry mouth is most common with older antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants. However, dry mouth can also occur with SSRIs and SNRIs.
Dry mouth can cause a range of issues, including oral soreness and burning, bad breath and alterations to your sense of taste. Some people with a dry mouth also develop dryness that affects the lips and throat.
If you develop dry mouth after starting antidepressants, it’s best to let your healthcare provider know as soon as possible.
They may recommend using an oral lubricating gel or artificial saliva to provide lubrication and moisture. Some people with this side effect use sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production and prevent dryness.
Sweating is a common side effect of many antidepressants, including tricyclic antidepressants, SSRIs and SNRIs such as venlafaxine.
Research shows that up to 20 percent of people who use antidepressants may experience an excessive level of sweating, which can occur on the scalp, face, neck and chest.
If you’re prone to sweating from antidepressants, your healthcare provider may recommend a few simple changes that you can make to the way you use your medication.
For example, you may benefit from adjusting the dosage of your antidepressant or switching to a different type of medication to treat your depression.
Some medications, such as benztropine and cyproheptadine, may help to reduce or eliminate sweating that’s caused by antidepressants.
If you’re prescribed an antidepressant, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes to your use of medication.
Many antidepressants have a reputation for causing weight gain. While this side effect is fairly common, your risk of gaining weight during treatment with antidepressants may vary based on the specific type of medication you’re prescribed.
Weight gain is most common with older medications. For example, research shows that people often gain weight while using tricyclic antidepressants.
Although weight gain is also a side effect of many SSRIs and SNRIs, the effect doesn’t appear to be quite as severe and can vary significantly from one medication to another.
For example, in a 2000 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers found that the SSRI paroxetine produced a significant amount of weight gain over a period of 26 to 32 weeks, while the medications sertraline and fluoxetine had little to no effect on weight.
Other research has found that some antidepressants, such as bupropion, may be more likely to cause weight loss than weight gain.
If you notice that you’re gaining weight after starting treatment with antidepressants, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.
Taking steps to control your calorie intake and exercising regularly may also help you to reduce the effects of antidepressants on your weight and body composition.
Many antidepressants are associated with sexual side effects such as reduced sexual arousal, delayed orgasm and erectile dysfunction (ED).
The risk of these side effects occurring can vary from one antidepressant to another. Research has found that sexual dysfunction is particularly common with SSRIs and SNRIs.
According to data published in the journal The Mental Health Clinician, 40 percent to 65 percent of all people who are prescribed SSRIs may experience sexual side effects.
Sexual side effects from antidepressants can vary in severity. You may notice a slightly weaker sex drive during treatment or find it difficult to reach orgasm and ejaculate.
Some people find it impossible to reach orgasm during sex while using antidepressants.
If you notice sexual side effects after starting treatment with an SSRI, SNRI or other medication, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.
They may suggest adjusting your dosage, changing the time at which you take your medication or switching to a different type of antidepressant.
Some antidepressants, such as bupropion, are less likely to cause sexual side effects and may even help to boost your level of sexual response.
Our guide to antidepressants and sexual side effects goes into more detail about these effects, as well as steps you can take to maintain your sexual performance while treating depression.
In addition to the common side effects explained above, some antidepressants may cause other side effects. These may include:
Asthenia (lack of energy and strength)
Pharyngitis (sore throat)
Some antidepressants may cause additional side effects not listed above. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about potential side effects before you take any antidepressants or other medications to treat depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions.
Although antidepressants are effective at treating depression and depression symptoms in the long term, some may increase suicide risk in teens and young adults.
For this reason, many antidepressants carry a warning from the FDA that notifies of an elevated risk of suicidality.
If you experience any rapid changes in mood, suicidal thoughts or unusual behavior while using antidepressants, seek immediate medical assistance.
Some antidepressants can interact with other medications and cause certain unwanted effects, including potentially dangerous side effects such as serotonin syndrome.
Common medications that may interact with antidepressants include:
Psychotropic medications, such as other antidepressants
Anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine
Interactions are particularly common with older antidepressants such as MAOIs, which have the potential to interact with both medications and certain foods and herbal supplements.
We’ve provided more information about these interactions and the safety measures you’ll need to take to avoid them in our guide to monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
If you experience any side effects after starting treatment with an antidepressant, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider may suggest adjusting your dosage or changing to a different type of antidepressant that’s less likely to cause the specific side effects you’re experiencing.
Side effect rates can vary hugely from one antidepressant to another, meaning a simple switch to a new medication may significantly improve your results and experience.
Your healthcare provider may also recommend making some changes to the way you use your medication, such as:
Adjusting the time that you take your antidepressants. This may help to reduce the severity of side effects that affect your quality of life, such as the sexual side effects that are associated with some antidepressants.
Using other medications. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to treat specific side effects. For example, medications like sildenafil may be helpful for treating erectile dysfunction associated with antidepressants.
Many side effects of antidepressants are transient, meaning they may go away or become less severe over time. You may notice your results improving after using your medication for several weeks or months.
It’s important not to make changes to your dosage or stop using your medication without talking to your healthcare provider first.
Antidepressants are widely used medications that, for most people, provide real benefits that make treating and overcoming depression easier.
Like other mental health treatments, antidepressants can cause side effects. While most of these are mild, some can be severe or persistent.
If you’re prescribed an antidepressant and have side effects, make sure to let your healthcare provider know.
They’ll be able to provide personalized, expert advice to help you benefit from treatment with antidepressants while avoiding or minimizing side effects.
If you’re feeling depressed and need help, you can consult with a licensed psychiatry provider and receive a personalized treatment plan using our online psychiatry service.
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