The side effects of medication for depression
Side effects can occur with all medications, not just psychotropic medications. In depression, however, medications are taken for long periods, and thus, some side effects may not be tolerable because of the duration of treatment required. Side effects vary both within a class of medications and between classes. Typically, one class of medications shares similar side effects; however, if one medicine within a class causes a specific side effect (e.g., nausea), it is not necessarily the case that another medicine within the same class will cause the same side effect.
Some medications have rare but potentially serious side effects. Your doctor should go over these with you. Some side effects can be useful in certain situations. For example, in a person who has insomnia, a more sedating antidepressant may be helpful when taken in the evening. In someone with a poor appetite, a medication with an associated increase in appetite may be desired.
Rather than discontinuing a medication when there is a suspected, bothersome side effect, it is important to speak with your doctor first. Some side effects are transient or can be easily alleviated by another remedy (e.g., ibuprofen for headache). Stopping medications abruptly when any side effect occurs may cause a discontinuation syndrome, as well as may prematurely interrupt a potentially helpful treatment intervention. If possible, it is best to remain on a treatment for at least a few days, as some perceived side effects could be associated with unrelated conditions (e.g., viral infection). Bear in mind that scientific studies that compare an active medication to a placebo (sugar pill) have reported “side effects” in the placebo group as well. If a suspected effect seems dangerous for any reason, it certainly is most prudent to stop the medication until you are able to speak with a doctor and if necessary receive an evaluation in an emergency setting.