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Managing the Painful Side Effects of Antidepressants

Helping to Manage the Common Side Effects of Antidepressants, Continued

3. Nausea

Nausea is that queasiness you may feel in your stomach contemplating eating, or after you eat. You can combat these feelings by changing your eating schedule to eat more meals per day that are smaller. So instead of 3 big meals, you eat 6 smaller meals spread evenly throughout the day. This may be difficult for many people to incorporate into their lives, so you can also try this — eat some peppermint candy or chew some peppermint gum, because peppermint can help settle your stomach. And while not recommended for long-term use, antacids can usually help calm nausea.

4. Insomnia and sleep problems

The biggest thing that will help your sleep problems is to avoid the use of caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol, especially after 4:00 pm, as caffeine can stay within your system for up to 8 hours. Ease into a sleep routine that’s different, by emphasizing low-stress and relaxing activities as you get closer to bedtime. Avoid watching television, especially TV shows that produce anxiety or stress in your (like the late-night news, or a tense drama). Consider reading before bedtime, an activity shown to help lower stress levels in people.

A part of a new daily routine may also be to switch when you exercise from the evening to the morning. While it may be more difficult to wake earlier to exercise, exercising in the evening or late afternoon releases endorphins and affects other neurotransmitter signals that tell your body to be more awake.

Avoid the use of sleep medications long-term, even if prescribed by a doctor. Sleep aids are meant for short-term use, and can become addictive with long-term, negative side effects. Talk to your doctor if you are unable to help rectify your sleep patterns on your own, because sleep is one of the most important components of your body’s needs.

5. Increased anxiousness or nervousness

Some people get a nervous energy from the antidepressant they’re taking. This is a side effect that resolves on its own for most people, but if it doesn’t for you, talk to your doctor about a lower dose, or changing the type of antidepressant you’re taking. Some people simply don’t tolerate certain antidepressants as well as others, and this can be a sign that this particular antidepressant is not right for you.

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6. Daytime sleepiness or drowsiness

Like other side effects, you may find this side effect decreasing on its own as your body gets used to the medication. Some antidepressants have this effect more than others. Talk to your doctor to see if you can use this side effect to your advantage, by taking it at nighttime before you go to bed.

7. Weight gain

Weight gain is a common problem with a lot of psychiatric medications, including many antidepressants. While most people may only gain a few to 10 lbs while on an antidepressant, it can be troubling enough to cause its own stress. Weight gain is best addressed through a combination of trying to eat more healthy, reducing your overall calorie intake by at least 10 percent (in a typical 2,000 calorie diet, that would be 200 calories less per day), and engaging in regular — 3 to 4 times a week — exercise (even if it’s just committing to walking for 45 minutes a day). While exercise and eating less are far more difficult when one is depressed, these are the only proven methods for losing weight. Avoid fad or fast weight loss diets, and consider joining a gym or weight loss support group to give you the extra emotional support to help you with this.

8. Constipation or diarrhea

Constipation can be helped by eating more insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is the indigestible part of the plant — like strawberry seeds, apple and bean skins, the bran shell on brown rice and wheat grains. People who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may find that too much insoluble fiber worsens diarrhea. If you have IBS, you may want to opt for more soluble fiber.

So you can try to eat more bran and other whole-grain cereals. For instance, switch to a higher-fiber bread for lunch instead of white or a roll. Enjoy more high-fiber fruits and vegetables, such as apples, prunes, beans, and broccoli. Consider taking a fiber supplement (available in a wide range of forms, even tasteless additives to a glass of water) if you can’t fit more fiber into your diet. And drink plenty of fluids throughout the day — especially water.

For diarrhea , avoid spicy and high-fat foods until you feel better. The same things apply about eating more soluble fiber, because fiber regulates our digestive systems for both conditions. Soluble fiber is soft stuff — the insides of beans, peas, lentils, mangoes, apples, peaches, figs, pineapple, pears, etc. It also acts to slow down food as it passes through your intestines, which can help prevent diarrhea.

9. Headaches

Headaches will often decrease or go away altogether as your body adjusts to the antidepressant. If they don’t, ask your doctor about which over-the-counter pain relief medications are best to take for your headache in conjunction with your antidepressant.

10. Increased sweating

Some people find that they sweat more when on some types of antidepressants. Reduce sweating by wearing more loose fitting clothing and minimizing physical activity, especially during the warmest parts of the day.

11. Dizziness

Dizziness can sometimes occur when taking certain antidepressants. Try to reduce dizziness by getting up more slowly when you are sitting or lying down.

Serious side effects

You shouldn’t try and manage all side effects, because some side effects are serious and may indicate a more immediate health problem. Talk to your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:

  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, swollen lips, hives, or other signs of a serious allergic reaction.
  • Suicidal thoughts or feelings, or any signs of suicide, such as talking or writing about death, giving away belongings, or withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Manic behavior, such as having very high energy, sleeping less than normal, being impulsive, or being grouchy or restless.
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 22, 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.