Side effects of Antidepressants

Although antidepressants are one of the ways to help adolescents with depression or anxiety feel better mentally and socially, there are also some other physical attributes to them that may tag along, too.

With antidepressants, also called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), about 40% of people who take them have side effects and 25% of those side effects are very bothersome to the patient.

You know when you listen to the commercials and they seem to rattle off every imaginable thing that can go wrong from taking medications? Here’s a Kristen Wiig sketch on Chantix for smoking cessation to remind you!

That’s because drug companies are required to tell you almost anything anyone reports could go wrong. Some of these things are common and others are very rare!

So how do you decide if its ok for your child to start a medication? This is where working with a doctor can help. Its ok and expected for you and your child to have questions! Your doctor’s job is to help think with you and your child about what is right for you.

Many factors will go into this decision like:

  • Your child feels their symptoms of depression and anxiety are getting in the way of living life the way they want to
  • Your doctor has answered you and your child’s questions about how the medication could help and what to expect
  • You’ve considered different treatment options with your doctor and your child

Just remember! Many side effects will go away after a few weeks of taking the medication. This is why for antidepressants your child will usually start on a lower dose and slowly work their way up as their body gets used to the medication at the standard dose. Its important to NOT stop the medication on their own, and check with their doctor about side effects they think they are experiencing. For certain medications, if they stop them themselves instead of slowly, it can make them feel sick.

It can take several weeks for antidepressants to feel like they are helping your child’s mood so be patient! and keep in touch with your child’s doctor.

Side effects are not always guaranteed, and if your child has one side effect it does not necessarily mean that they will get more. It depends on their body and lifestyle and there is no way to anticipate if or which side effects they may get from antidepressants.

Try reminding your child to keep track of possible side effects! Here’s an example of how:


and some more sheets they can try

Here are some more common side effects and what your child can do about them:

  • headache
    • this should get better within a week – if not talk to your doctor
  • feeling speeded up
    • this should get better within a week – if not talk to your doctor
  • nausea
    • should get better soon, eat small frequent meals rich in protein
  • dizziness
    • get up slowly and drink fluids – talk to your doctor if you are worried
  • blurred vision
    • this should get better soon
  • wakefulness
    • ask your doctor about taking your medicine when you wake up
  • drowsiness
    • ask your doctor to take your medicine at night
  • dry mouth
    • drink up! get in water or chew sugarless gum
  •  constipation
    • again – get in water or try fiber-rich foods

Source: Steady CBT workbook

You may have heard about people talking about suicide in relation to antidepressants. About a fifth of adolescents may have thought about suicide, but less than 3% have tried. In some studies, adolescents taking antidepressants were found to think about suicide more. These numbers were very small: 4 in 100 adolescents in the group of adolescents taking antidepressants versus 2 in 100 adolescents in the group taking sugar pills. Also, there were no actual suicides that occurred. Leading psychiatrists have even shown that this association does not play out in real life antidepressant use in adolescents. Still, if your child reports having more thoughts about suicide, please let their doctor know. Read more about this and other facts about your child and their medications here from a wonderful and detailed resource from the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in consultation with a National Coalition of Concerned Parents, Providers, and Professional Associations.

Photo Credit: Thomas van de Vosse via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Jeremy Brooks via Compfight cc

If you have experienced any of these side effects from antidepressants, how did you overcome them? Leave your response below to help others!

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