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Different antidepressants have different side effects. For most people, SSRIs and SNRIs (the newer types of antidepressants) cause less side effects than TCAs and MAOIs. However, you can never know beforehand how someone reacts to specific medicines.

Side effects can vary

Both the effect and side effects are different per medicine AND per individual. It is good to know that when you begin with antidepressants, the side effects are usually noticed first. After a while, the desired effect of the medicine will follow. Sometimes your problems might even get worse when you have just started taking antidepressants. It usually takes two to six weeks for antidepressants to fully work.

Your medicine always comes with an information leaflet that lists all possible side effects. This can also tell you what to do when you experience one of these side effects. More information on specific antidepressants is also available on (in English and Spanish).

Antidepressants can make your negative thoughts and feelings less heavy. However, another common effect is that your positive feelings also become somewhat less. It takes the edges of your mood, so to speak. In fact, this may be why antidepressants work in the first place: by numbing negative emotions, the depression is experienced less intensely. However, if this “emotional blunting” is a problem for you, it sometimes helps to lower your dosage a little. The trick is to find out which dosage makes YOU feel most comfortable.

These are the most common side effects of the different types of antidepressants:

SSRI: nausea and vomiting, sleeplessness, shaking (tremor) and sexual problems;
SNRI: the same as SNRIs, and can also cause high blood pressure;
TCA: dryness of the mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, weight gain and constipation;
MAOI: dizziness, dryness of the mouth, constipation, sleeplessness, weight gain.

Regularly check you medicine’s effects

Keep an eye on the effect and side effects of your antidepressants. Also talk regularly with your doctor about how you feel. A useful tool might be the checklist medicine use

Extra information:

More information on specific antidepressants can be found at (in English and Spanish).

Prof. dr. Jim van OsChair Division Neuroscience, Utrecht University Medical Centre. Jim is also Visiting Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. Jim works at the interface of ‘hard’ brain science, health services research, art and subjective experiences of people with ‘lived experience’ in mental healthcare. 

Jim has been appearing on the Thomson-Reuter Web of Science list of ‘most influential scientific minds of our time’ since 2014. In 2014 he published his book ‘Beyond DSM-5‘, and in 2016 the book ‘Good Mental Health Care’. 

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