Understanding the Short- and Long-Term Effects of Antidepressants

If your psychologist or doctor has recommended that you take medication to deal with depression or anxiety issues, you may be wondering what types of side effects you may potentially face. While this is different for every individual, many people do share the most common side effects, depending on the type of medication they are prescribed.Photo of effects of antidepressants LocateADoc

There are five categories of medications available to treat depression. In general, they target neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. An estimated half of the people who take these medications will experience some type of side effect, such as agitation, trouble sleeping, nausea, a loss of appetite, or drowsiness, to name a few.

In many cases, individuals who have had just one instance of depression will only need to stay on the medication for a limited time. Often, that period is just six to 12 months, at which time a doctor will taper off medication until it is no longer necessary at all. Other times, however, individuals must continue taking this medication for the rest of their lives. If they've had two or three bouts of depression, it is most likely that their medical team will advise them to follow their prescription regime indefinitely.

There have been few studies related to the effects of taking these medications on a long-term basis, though, generally, medical professionals agree that the benefits of treating depression outweigh any potential for side effects. It's important to note that specific side effects, such as weight gain or lightheadedness, can lead to many other health problems. This makes it all the more important for individuals to be honest with their health care professionals about any issues as soon as they start taking anti-depressants so that they can find the right solution with minimal side effects.

To read more about antidepressants and depression, explore our articles and resources section.

Further Reading

  • What is with the holidays? It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year! We are supposed to be merry and thankful, yet all too often; we become depressed, anxious and stressed out. Nevertheless, if Ebenezer Scrooge can turn his “Bah, humbug!” feeling around, why can’t we?

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, getting enough sleep and staying positive continue to be the prescription to better health and lower risks of depression, but recent research in Europe suggests that a quick Botox jab could also give your mood a boost.

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that affects millions of people each years as temperatures drop. Even those who are not diagnosed as having SAD by a mental health professional may experience symptoms including include chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety and cravings for carbohydrates.  However, light therapy has been used to treat the 'winter blues' for several decades, providing some hope for those who need to brighten up their days and enjoy a brighter outlook.