Module 10 - Medications and other Physical Treatments

Side-effects of antidepressant medication

SSRIs are generally not sedative and are less likely to affect the heart and blood pressure. They can cause a marked initial increase in anxiety with poor sleep and restlessness, particularly in the first few weeks of treatment. Education regarding this is important to allay anxiety and maximise compliance. In some cases night sedation can be helpful in the first few weeks. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting and weight loss. The more dangerous Tricyclic and Monoamine inhibitor types of antidepressant tend to be fairly sedative which can be helpful in people experiencing difficulties sleeping or high levels of anxiety. However they also cause a number of other side effects including dry mouth, hunger, constipation, blurred vision, sweating, weight gain, low blood pressure and falls, seizures and palpitations. Side effects of antidepressant medication are most likely to occur in the first few weeks of treatment or at times of dose increases. Some reduction in (and tolerance to) side effects occurs over time.

Discontinuation / Withdrawal effects

Dicontinuation reactions may result when an antidepressant is ceased abruptly or without weaning the dose down before stopping. Some of the symptoms of a discontinuation syndrome can unclude dizziness, nausea, lethargy and headache, as well as a transient increase in anxiety and depression. Therefore, antidepressants should be ceased under a doctor’s supervision, and by tapering the dose over a period of up to several weeks.
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