Dry mouth

Dry mouth is a common side effect of many antidepressants.

Consider these strategies:

  • Sip water regularly or suck on ice chips.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy.
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol and caffeinated beverages because they can make your mouth drier.
  • Breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day, floss daily and see your dentist regularly. Having a dry mouth can increase your risk of getting cavities.
  • Talk to your doctor about using a moisturizing mouth spray or another product that might stimulate saliva production.
  • If dry mouth continues to be extremely bothersome despite the efforts above, ask your doctor the pros and cons of reducing the dosage of the antidepressant.

Blurred vision

Blurred vision is a common side effect, but it usually goes away on its own within a couple of weeks of starting an antidepressant. With certain antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants, it may be an ongoing issue.

Consider these strategies:

  • Talk to your doctor about using special eyedrops to relieve dryness, if that's an issue.
  • Talk to your doctor about changing your antidepressant or lowering your dose.
  • Get an eye exam to see whether blurred vision caused by an antidepressant may be worsened by an underlying eye problem.

Constipation

Constipation is often associated with tricyclic antidepressants because they disrupt normal functioning of the digestive tract and other organ systems. Other antidepressants sometimes cause constipation as well.

Consider these strategies:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat high-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, brans, and whole grains.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Take a fiber supplement (Citrucel, Konsyl, Metamucil, others).
  • Ask your doctor for advice on stool softeners if other measures don't work.

Dizziness

Dizziness is more common with tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) than with other antidepressants. These medications can cause low blood pressure, resulting in dizziness.

Consider these strategies:

  • Rise slowly from sitting or standing positions.
  • Use handrails, canes or other sturdy items for support.
  • Avoid driving or operating machinery.
  • Avoid caffeine, tobacco and alcohol.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take your antidepressant at bedtime if your doctor approves.

Agitation, restlessness, anxiety

Agitation, restlessness or anxiety can result from the stimulating effect of certain antidepressants. Although having more energy can be a good thing, it may mean you can't relax or sit still even if you want to.

Consider these strategies:

  • Get regular exercise, such as jogging, biking or aerobics, or some type of physical activity, such as walking. Talk to your doctor first about what would be a good type of exercise or physical activity for you.
  • Practice deep-breathing exercises, muscle relaxation or yoga.
  • Consult your doctor about temporarily taking a relaxing or sedating medication or switching to an antidepressant that isn't as stimulating.

Be alert for racing or impulsive thoughts along with high energy. If these develop, talk to your doctor right away because they may be signs of bipolar disorder or another serious disorder.

Genetic variations

Some studies indicate that variations in genes may play a role in the effectiveness and risk of side effects of specific antidepressants. So your genes may, at least in part, determine whether a certain antidepressant will work well for you and whether you're likely to have certain side effects.

Some locations already provide limited genetic testing to help determine antidepressant choice, but testing is not routine and it's not always covered by insurance.

More studies are being done to determine what might be the best antidepressant choice based on genetic makeup. However, genetic testing is a part of — not a replacement for — a thorough psychiatric exam and clinical decisions.

Dec. 17, 2016 See more In-depth