Charles Triay (General Practicioner) gives expert video advice on: What are the side effects of antidepressants?; Is there a cure for depression? and more...
What are the side effects of antidepressants?
Side effects of antidepressants are extremely varied because we have quite a large number of types of antidepressants, and hence the individual types of antidepressants will carry specific side effects to that type of medication. There are a number of side effects they might have in common. Antidepressants often cause constipation. They can cause a dry mouth, dry eyes or maybe a little bit of blurring of your vision. They can cause increased sweating. A lot of antidepressants will cause reduced libido, so that means that a patient might have a reduced sexual desire. There are other side effects, which could be a little more specific to the types of antidepressants. For example, one large group of antidepressants are SSRIs, which are specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors. This is the family of medication that Prozac belongs to. A lot of people do tend to talk about Prozac side effects: headaches, rashes, a sensation particularly at the beginning of treatment that you're not quite with it, that you're not yourself, that you're a little bit distant. I often hear patients describing that type of symptom, but they do tend to wear off. A number of these antidepressants can cause sudden changes in certain blood levels, and it is important with certain types of antidepressants that you have a regular blood test, in particular to check sodium levels and liver function tests. Other types of antidepressants can cause heart irregularities. Patients may need an electrocardiogram, or they may simply need an explanation to be aware of that type of a problem.
Is there a cure for depression?
I think the treatment of depression has advanced very significantly. The problem is that there are different types of depression and some patients will be carrying a genetic pre-disposition to depression. Therefore, their depression may not achieve a cure, although I think that a control of that depression will, in the vast majority of cases, be possible. The other type of patient who suffers depression, where the circumstances or their situation in life has brought about a depressive episode, will normally achieve a complete cure in their depression, once they've been helped through their depression and their life situation, and circumstances have been relieved such that they're not subjected to such stresses and strain.
Is it possible to become addicted to antidepressants?
There is a certain amount of debate as to whether antidepressants are addictive or not. It is true that some antidepressants should not be stopped suddenly because you can develop withdrawal symptoms, so by that definition, they could be addictive, but depending on the type of patient and the type of depression they are suffering from, it could be simply that when you withdraw their antidepressant, their genetic makeup and their susceptibility leads them back into depression. We have to remember that depression is caused by certain changes in certain neurohormones in the brain. Serotonin is the one that's most widely talked about, but there are other neurohormones that are involved in depression, so that by definition, there will be patients that will always be susceptible to depression and might interpret this as being addicted to antidepressants.