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Health & BeautyManaging Side Effects of Antidepressants: 6 Tips for Patients and Caregivers

Managing Side Effects of Antidepressants: 6 Tips for Patients and Caregivers

Antidepressants are known to cause unpleasant side effects. Decades of research have improved tolerability, but antidepressant side effects remain a common problem.

86% of individuals experience at least one side effect after taking antidepressants. Studies have also revealed that side effects are the primary reason patients decide to discontinue treatment.

Patients and caregivers need to know more about the unpleasant effects antidepressants may have and how to navigate them. This post offers tips to help you manage the side effects of antidepressants.

1. Drowsiness

Some people on antidepressants experience drowsiness, which can be highly disruptive to your productivity and quality of life. Specific agents like tricyclics are reported to cause drowsiness.

However, any form of antidepressant may trigger drowsiness in certain people.

There are various ways you can combat drug-induced drowsiness. A quick nap, lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, may help. You could also drink coffee, take a walk, or exercise.

2. Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction is a long-term problem associated with antidepressants. The problem is common, affecting more than half of patients with long-term use of antidepressants.

SSRIs such as paroxetine were linked to the highest incidence of sexual dysfunction. Bupropion and Nefazodone appear to have the lowest rates of sexual dysfunction.

Since arousal, libido, orgasm, and ejaculation are the most affected areas, patients may resort to measures that overcome these problems, such as quitting smoking, exercising, losing weight, and changing their medication.

3. Insomnia

There is a high prevalence of insomnia in antidepressant patients. About 64% of those suffering from this side effect experience it within two weeks of administering the medications. For over half of these patients, the insomnia lasts for months.

How intense the insomnia is, seems to depend on the type of drug you’re using. Out of all antidepressants, Reboxetine was found to induce the highest rate of insomnia.

Patients on Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) also report a higher frequency and rate of insomnia compared to other drugs like Nefazodone, Trazodone, and Mirtazapine.

You can control insomnia induced by antidepressants by trying a healthier sleep technique and avoiding things that affect sleep quality, such as.

  • Caffeine, especially near bedtime
  • Screen time near bedtime
  • Alcohol
  • Too much light

If you want to take sleep aids while on antidepressants, it’s important to consult your doctor beforehand to avoid negative reactions.


Diarrhea is one of the gastrointestinal problems that may occur as a side effect of antidepressants. Some of the patients on SSRIs experience diarrhea, which may resolve on its own after a week or so, but the problem may persist.

As a patient or caregiver, you may consider antidiarrheal agents like diphenoxylate hydrochloride to help manage the problem. If the issue persists, you may ask your healthcare provider to switch the medication.

5. Fatigue

You could also experience fatigue while on antidepressants, which could be accompanied by drowsiness, but that’s not always the case.

A change in energy levels is common. It can usually be resolved by taking your medications at night rather than during the day.

Your doctor may suggest other medications to counter the side effects. Alternatively, you could increase physical activity to boost your energy levels.

6. Weight Gain

Patients also report weight gain as a side effect of antidepressants, although it can also be an independent issue. There isn’t enough evidence that SSRIs cause weight gain.

Similarly, Nefazodone, Venlafaxine, and Bupropion show the lowest rate of weight gain.

Mirtazapine, on the other hand, is associated with the highest rate of weight gain among patients on antidepressants.

Managing antidepressant-induced weight gain can be challenging, considering the effect is seen late into the treatment and may be an independent issue.

Still, your healthcare provider can prescribe a drug with a low weight gain rate. Physical activity can also be used as an alternative intervention.


The side effects of antidepressants can range from bothersome to totally intolerable. The tips we’ve shared can help, but they may not work for everyone.

It would be best to work with your doctor to resolve the situation before considering dropping antidepressants altogether.

But it’s also understandable that some patients have no choice but to get off antidepressants. In that case, there are alternative remedies for managing stress, anxiety, and depression.

More recently, cannabis has emerged as a powerful alternative treatment for patients with anxiety and depression.

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