Antidepressant: Uses & Side Effects

An antidepressant is the name given to a medicine that can help relieve the symptoms of depression, such as low mood, anxiety, and worthlessness.

Antidepressants are classified into different types depending on their structure and the way that they work. There are at least seven types of antidepressant:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and tetracyclic antidepressants (TeCAs)
  • And the miscellaneous antidepressants.

MAOIs and TCAs were among the first antidepressants developed. They have largely been superseded by newer antidepressants (such as the SSRIs) that have fewer side effects, although these older antidepressants may still suit certain people or be effective when other antidepressants have been ineffective.

Antidepressants are thought to work by increasing levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and/or norepinephrine, in the brain.


Antidepressants help to relieve the symptoms of depression such as low mood, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, restlessness, anxiety, and difficulty in sleeping.

In addition to depression, certain antidepressants may also be used to treat a range of other conditions, for example:

  • Anxiety
  • Bed-wetting
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Chronic nerve-related pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hot flashes
  • Migraine prevention
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

It is important to note that not all antidepressants are used to treat the conditions mentioned above.

Antidepressants generally provide some relief of symptoms within one to two weeks; however, it may take six to eight weeks of treatment before the full effects are seen.

Side effects

Not everybody experiences significant side effects with antidepressants, and some antidepressants are more likely to cause side effects than others. Some of the more commonly reported side effects include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness, sometimes insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Gastrointestinal upset (such as constipation, diarrhea, or nausea)
  • A headache
  • Increased or irregular heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure when going from a standing to a sitting position (called orthostatic hypotension). In most people, this can be managed by slowly increasing the dosage of the medication, giving split doses, and increasing fluid intake
  • Sexual dysfunction (such as reduced desire or erectile dysfunction)
  • Tremor
  • Urinary retention
  • Weight loss or weight gain.

Some antidepressants have been associated with a discontinuation syndrome when they have been stopped suddenly. For this reason, it is best to withdraw all antidepressants slowly.

Keyword: antidepressants.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.