Let's Get Real About Antidepressant Side Effects


Your doctor just wrote you a prescription for your depression. They probably gave you some info on what the drug is, what they hope it will do for you and (if your situation is like mine) they may have mentioned “some mild side effects” may occur.

Maybe they don’t really know, or maybe they don’t want to frighten you, but I’ve found an alarming amount of doctors don’t inform you on just how common side effects are. In my experience, they certainly don’t tell you about the really intense stuff.

I remember coming back to the doctor after that very first prescription and had this interaction:

Me: I’ve been having a lot of headaches and stomach issues since I started taking that medicine.

Doctor: Yes, that’s unfortunately very common.

I didn’t say it out loud, but I definitely remember thinking, “That would have been good to know before I started taking this!”

Drowsiness and fatigue can also be common, which is wonderful because we depressives already struggle with fatigue and lack of motivation.

Weight gain is reported from many antidepressants. Great, now I have a body image issue to add to the mix. What kind of sick joke is this!

Nausea and other GI issues are common. Fantastic, now I can’t even enjoy my damn ice cream without feeling like it’s going to violently come back up.

It’s taboo to talk about, but sexual dysfunction is very common. It’s as high as 50 percent (or more!) in some studies. For guys, that can mean erectile dysfunction. For men and women, this likely means difficulty or inability to achieve orgasm. As if being depressed wasn’t already bad enough.

And last, but not least, there’s other weird stuff. Dry mouth, lightheadedness, dizziness, agitation and my all time favorite… “brain zaps.” Yes, I’m talking about this really freaky sensation that I’ve only had when taking an SNRI. My brain says, “You know what would really lighten up the mood around here? An electrical shock!” At that moment, a bolt of lightning starts in my brain and zaps out into my face, hands and feet. It’s like a party — in hell.

My journey through this valley of cupcakes and rainbows has basically been a cruel game of “Would You Rather?”

I’ve pretty much run the whole gamut. I don’t know if there’s some sort of prize for my achievements, but I figure I should at least be considered for the Hall Of Fame of side effects. Perhaps I should start calling myself the Babe Ruth of depressives. Please, no requests for autographs though. I’m tired, nauseous and agitated, with a dry mouth and headache from dealing with these damn brain zaps.

Sometimes you have to laugh about it or else you’ll cry. And I’ve already met my lifetime quota on that. Plus, I’ve already written about how serious, scary and horrible it is to have a major depressive episode here.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Brent_Davis


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Depression

31 Things We Want the World to Know About Depression on World Health Day

On World Health Day, April 7th, the World Health Association is highlighting the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide — depression. So on behalf of the 300 million people who live with depression, we wanted to send a message to the world, from people who actually live with depression. We’re not hiding. We’re [...]
woman with sunglasses playing guitar

Depression and Creativity: Don't Wait Until You Feel Better

I’ve been talking with friends about creativity a lot lately, and how difficult it is to sustain riding the surf once you catch the wave. The dilemma of the creative process — and this is especially true for artists — is that we impose pressure on ourselves to make impressive, or at least good, creations; they [...]
hand drawn portrait of a woman with dark hair and stars

What Depression Taught Me About Happiness

In September 2011, I wrote a blog about coming out of my depression by choosing happiness or deciding I was going to be happy. I’ve considered deleting it, but I think I’ll keep it as a testament to where I was and what I’ve learned since. Because depression isn’t about choosing happiness. In fact, I’m [...]
Illustration of profile of woman with long hair flowing up

When Living With a Mental Illness Makes 'Adulting' Difficult

  Transitioning into the “real world” after college is difficult for most students. Once the caps are thrown, new graduates often struggle facing what can seem like a vast, directionless future, shedding the “student identity” they had for years. This transitional period can be even more difficult if you add mental illness into the mix. [...]