Anti-depressants are the first-line treatment for moderate to severe depression. These medications should always be prescribed in conjunction with psychotherapy to see the biggest improvement in depressive symptoms.
But some people hesitate when beginning treatment due to possible side effects.
Choosing The Right Anti-Depressant
It is important to choose an anti-depressant based on the side effect profile, effectiveness, and cost.
Sexual side effects, fatigue, weight gain, and fluctuations in mood are common side effects associated with anti-depressants.
Suicidal ideations are the most concerning side effect, and physicians should always counsel their patients when prescribing anti-depressants, for this reason.
It usually takes 6-8 weeks to see a response to anti-depressants, and sometimes it may require switching to a different anti-depressant to find the most effective medication for you.
You should discuss any side effects you experience with your doctor, so that your treatment can be as comfortable as possible.
The Link Between Weight, Depression, & Anti-Depressants
Although weight gain is a possible side effect of anti-depressants, it is difficult to confirm whether anti-depressants are the root cause of the weight gain.
One of the symptoms associated with depression is a change in appetite, which can mean an increased or decreased appetite.
This change in appetite is often coupled with inactivity, as individuals with depression tend to lose interest in exercise and hobbies.
Inactivity, coupled with an increase in appetite, will often lead to weight gain.
On the other hand, a decrease in appetite will usually lead to weight loss. Individuals who have lost weight because of their depression can regain their weight back after starting anti-depressants and psychotherapy.
This is most likely because as their mood improves, they regain a healthy appetite.
Anti-depressants also may trigger changes in metabolism, causing the body to burn calories less efficiently, or increase hunger resulting in consuming more calories.
Anti-Depressants & Sexual Side Effects
Another big concern for some clients is sexual side effects, which include sexual dysfunction or reduced sensation.
Anti-depressants, especially SSRIs, affect serotonin, which in turn can affect dopamine levels.
If experienced, these side effects are temporary, and can be treated by switching to another medication, changing the dose of the current medication, or adding a medication such as Bupropion or Wellbutrin.
Staying Healthy During Treatment
Recovery can be a demanding journey. The effects of depression are devastating on the body and mind, and side effects can pose additional challenges.
The first step is to be honest with your physician about your concerns.
Secondly, it can be easy to overlook diet and exercise.
However, staying physically active and eating whole, nutritious foods can help maintain a stable weight while fueling your body and reducing fatigue.
Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, non-processed foods, lean meats, and minimal dairy are all dietary staples to keep in mind.
Finding an enjoyable exercise routine is the key to staying active. It is hard to exercise if it’s a chore.
Try out different exercise routines, whether it is running, hiking, yoga, or fitness classes.
If you find that you are living a healthy lifestyle, but are still gaining weight, experiencing unusual fatigue, or having trouble with sexual side effects, follow up with your doctor.
Start Your Journey With AKUA
No matter where you are in your journey, AKUA can help. If you are struggling with mental illness, addiction, or co-occurring disorders, our clinical team can tailor a specific treatment to your needs and goals.