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Managing the Painful Side Effects of Antidepressants

For better or worse, one of the primary treatments of clinical depression — antidepressants — come with a host of negative side effects. For some people, these side effects will be temporary and will go away on their own (or at least be reduced in intensity as your body acclimates to the medication). For others, the side effects may not go away and, in fact, may become intolerable.

Side effects are a normal part of taking virtually any prescription medication. Although the drugs are intended to treat the specific condition — in this case, depression — they also cause unwanted physical symptoms that are usually an annoyance.

You shouldn’t feel abnormal, awkward or self-conscious if you have any of these side effects. You should, however, talk to your doctor about them — especially if they make you feel worse or the side effects themselves are unbearable:

  • Decreased sex drive or no sex drive at all
  • Dry mouth — your mouth feels very dry and cannot produce the same amount of saliva as usual
  • Mild to moderate nausea
  • Insomnia — inability to get to sleep, or difficulty staying asleep
  • Increased anxiousness or restlessness
  • Daytime sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Increased sweating
  • Dizziness

Whatever you do, do not try and manage your medication — the dose, frequency or amount you take — on your own. You need to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Do not suddenly quit taking your medication, because it could cause intense withdrawal symptoms or even a return of your depression.

Keep in mind that some side effects can also be managed in conjunction with your doctor. There are remedies for dry mouth, for instance, and additional medications for other things (such as sexual dysfunction, a common side effect of many antidepressant medications).

Helping to Manage the Common Side Effects of Antidepressants

1. Decreased sex drive or no sex drive at all

Ask your doctor whether another medication is available that doesn’t have such strong sexual side effects, or if a lower dose may help with the problem. Talk to your doctor about other options, such as taking a medication for erectile dysfunction.

2. Dry mouth

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Eat more water-laden snacks, like celery sticks, and consider chewing sugarless gum, or suck often on sugarless candy. The sugarless part is important, because otherwise the sugar of constant gum chewing or candy sucking can harm your teeth and cause future cavities. You can also consider increasing your daily water intake by drinking at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day and cutting back on some of the caffeine-laden drinks, such as coffee, tea and alcohol. As a last resort, you can also try a specially formulated rinse for your mouth that may help, such as Biotene or Orazyme.

For the bad breath that often accompanies dry mouth, consider munching on these herbs: parsley, aniseed, fennel, rosemary and cayenne pepper (individually, not all together!). See this article for more details.

Managing the Painful Side Effects of Antidepressants

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Managing the Painful Side Effects of Antidepressants. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.