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What are the Common SSRI Side Effects?

By Lumara Lee
Updated May 17, 2024
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Any medication can have side effects that range from mild to severe. The antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are no exception. Some SSRI side effects that are reported the most include headaches, drowsiness, insomnia, nausea, and sexual problems. Many of these symptoms disappear after the person has been on the medication for several weeks.

SSRIs are most often prescribed to treat depression and anxiety disorders. They are also prescribed for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic pain, and eating disorders. This class of antidepressants affects serotonin levels, which is a chemical in the brain. Serotonin controls mood and also can affect digestion, sleep, pain, and other functions in the body.

Most SSRI side effects are usually mild. A patient experiencing mild symptoms is often told to continue the antidepressant to see if these effects will subside. If the symptoms persist, a different antidepressant may be prescribed.

Weight gain is one of the SSRI side effects that bother some people the most. Metabolisms differ, and some people lose weight when taking an SSRI, but weight gain is a frequent symptom. Sleep disturbances are another common side effect. SSRIs may produce insomnia in some patients, while others might experience vivid dreams and nightmares.

Sexual problems are commonly reported by both men and women who are taking SSRIs. Erectile dysfunction in men and an inability to achieve orgasm in women are common SSRI side effects. Both genders often experience reduced libido.

Some people have a higher risk of serious SSRI side effects. When a pregnant woman is treated with an SSRI, the baby will most likely suffer from symptoms of drug withdrawal after it is born. People over the age of 65 display a tendency to become dizzy and fall more frequently when taking an SSRI.

If a person has been taking an SSRI on a regular basis, he or she will usually experience withdrawal symptoms when the medication is discontinued. This type of reaction is known as SSRI discontinuation syndrome. The symptoms resemble the flu and include nausea, dizziness, chills, and fatigue.

Discontinuing an SSRI can cause other symptoms as well. Agitation is often reported along with irritability and an inability to concentrate. Some patients may even experience suicidal thoughts. This is why doctors recommend that patients gradually taper off the SSRI instead of stopping the medication all at once. A gradual reduction will reduce and possibly eliminate the symptoms of SSRI withdrawal.

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