What Happens To Your Body When You Start Taking Antidepressants

For a long time, mental health has had quite a stigma surrounding it. However, it seems like slowly but surely, these barriers are being broken down as more people begin to discuss their mental health journeys and seek help. In fact, more than one in every ten people in the United States takes antidepressants in some form or another on a daily basis (via UNC Health Talk). They are often used in conjunction with therapy, and have been shown to ignite hugely beneficial changes in people who struggle with their mental health. 

Specifically, antidepressants co-mingle with dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Each of these neurotransmitters plays a purposeful role in our mental health and brains. Depression typically lessens the bounty of each neurotransmitter, while antidepressants (fairly predictably) work to increase the availability of these molecules. While there are quite a few factors that play into deciding which antidepressant might be right for you, Verywell Mind explains that they are often prescribed based on an individual's tolerance and the amount of side effects they have.

One of the most important things to understand about antidepressants is that they are not exclusively used to treat depression. They can also be prescribed to treat anxiety and more. Antidepressants can bring color and light back into the lives of people whose worlds feel dim and dull, but they can also have some side effects. Here is everything you need to know about what happens to your body when you start taking antidepressants. 


Since antidepressants affect the chemistry of your brain and work to balance your serotonin levels, they can inhibit your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. As your serotonin levels increase, your brain cells are better able to communicate with each other. This is good for your brain, but it also can keep your brain more active, which affects your ability to sleep undisturbed (via Bustle). 

Similarly, starting on a new round of antidepressants might give you a much-needed boost of energy. With this, you might not feel as tired as you typically would in the evenings, which can mess with your bedtime and sleep routine. To combat this, the Mayo Clinic recommends consulting your doctor about taking your meds in the morning instead of at night. They also recommend avoiding caffeine, especially in the afternoons and evenings. Exercise can also help wear you out and coax your body into a peaceful slumber. But exercising too close to bedtime might further inhibit rest. If you start on antidepressants and become shackled with insomnia, contact your doctor to troubleshoot and develop a regimen that will allow you to get adequate rest. 

Appetite changes and weight gain

A lack of appetite is a fairly common symptom of depression. As you begin to take antidepressants and (hopefully) find that your mood improves, so might your appetite. As your appetite improves, you might find that you begin gaining weight. Bustle even reminds us as you start to feel better, your enjoyment of eating socially might increase. This includes things like going out to dinner with friends, which over time can lead to a bit of weight gain. While these are likely signs that your depression is improving, it can understandably be cause for concern. Getting regular physical activity and ensuring that you are consuming a heathy diet are great initial steps to take (via Mayo Clinic). 

Some medications have a reputation for provoking water retention, which can lead to weight gain. When in doubt, it is best to work with your doctor to decide which medication can best serve you. Your doctor can help you outline the pros and cons of each medication, which can better inform whatever decision it is you need to make. 

Dry mouth

In a 2016 study published in Australian Prescriber, it was determined that many antidepressants can cause salivary gland hypofunction, also known as dry mouth. The more interesting discovery, though, is that these medications might change your perception of dry mouth by decreasing your threshold for feeling it. 

Dry mouth might seem like an innocuous enough symptom. However, many people have reported a burning sensation within the mouth and on the lips as a result. This can ultimately hinder chewing, swallowing, and speaking, and result in halitosis, which is a fancy way of saying stinky breath. 

The same study warns us that to combat dry mouth, many people resort to sucking on candies or drinking beverages with added sugar. While these new habits may decrease the discomfort of dry mouth, the added sugar can degrade the health of your teeth and enamel. They advise patients to receive a dental checkup prior to beginning treatment with antidepressants, and to bump up fluoride-containing tooth care products. Some sugarless gums may even help relieve symptoms without compromising oral health (via Australian Prescriber). 


One of the most common side effects of antidepressants is nausea. Antidepressants don't necessarily "touch" the gastrointestinal tract, but they have a major impact on the central nervous system and releasing of serotonin, which can lead to nausea. Most antidepressant-related nausea resolves itself after a few weeks of being on the medication, but in some cases, the symptoms may persist for longer. In severe cases, the nausea and other GI symptoms can be so severe that treatment needs to cease. 

There are quite a few tactics that might be able to quell nausea if that is a symptom you are experiencing as a side effect of antidepressants. Of course, you should always check in with your doctor before implementing any extreme changes to your medication and routines (via Verywell Mind). Some of the best tips for keeping nausea at bay look familiar to people who have been pregnant or survived chemotherapy. You can suck on a hard candy when you start to feel nauseous, you can eat smaller, more frequent meals, and you can sip on ginger tea or ginger ale to help soothe your symptoms. 

It is also worth checking in with your doctor to determine if you can safely take your medication with food or before bedtime, which will inflict the brunt of the symptoms while you sleep. Finally, you can ask your doctor about the same medication but with a slow-release option, or inquire about lowering your dosage a bit. 


Anxiety seems like one of the last things we'd expect to see on a list of things you might experience after you start taking antidepressants. This is especially true because antidepressants are often used to treat anxiety. But since a lot of antidepressants have a stimulating effect, they can lead to anxiety and generalized agitation. While some of this excess energy is an asset, it can often lead to restlessness (per Mayo Clinic). 

This is another side effect of antidepressants that is often remedied with generally healthy behaviors. Though if they do not work to lessen anxiety, you should absolutely chat with your doctor about it. Some of the most popular ways to cope with antidepressant-fueled anxiety are through consistent exercise and deep breathing practices. Yoga is a common hobby that helps many people confront their racing minds and restless bodies. That said, people who start taking antidepressants should be wary of high energy combined with racing or impulsive thoughts, as this combination might be a sign of other mental health disorders. 


So many medications can influence our natural biorhythms, and antidepressants are definitely on that list. So, let's chat about everyone's favorite dinner table topic — poop! 

Some classes of antidepressants cause more constipation that others. Even those that are not known for having constipation as a main side effect can influence the frequency and ease in which you are able to release your bowels. Some medications affect the abundance of a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate muscular contractions and intestinal lubrication (via Verywell Mind). 

High-fiber foods, plenty of water, and exercise work well if you are feeling like your new antidepressant routine is impacting your guts. Stool softeners and laxatives can also work, if more natural methods for constipation relief fail. However, as with most side effects, if this becomes an ongoing issue, it is best to check in with your doctor to determine what the best next steps are for you. Long-term constipation can lead to fecal impaction and other negative health consequences, so if you're in doubt about whether or not what you are experiencing is normal, seek medical attention before moving forward. 


Feeling fatigued is another semi-unexpected side effect of taking antidepressants. Since many people feel an improved boost and increased energy after they begin taking medication to combat depression, it seems illogical to learn that some folks actually experience fatigue and lethargy as a result of antidepressants. 

As it turns out, fatigue is fairly common as your body responds to its new chemical makeup. In part, this can be because of the increased energy you might experience at nighttime. If you experience insomnia as a side effect of antidepressants, you will ultimately feel tired throughout the day as a result (via Bustle). 

Taking naps as your body adjusts, dialing in your sleep schedule, and engaging in regular exercise can all help encourage restful sleep while hopefully cutting down on some of the fatigue you feel. If you are still unable to shake the fatigue after being consistent with these things and your medications for a month, Bustle recommends checking in with your doctor for more advice and coping mechanisms. 


Much like many of the other side effects that you might experience when you begin taking antidepressants, headaches are relatively normal and to be expected. However, this is mostly true for your first few weeks on the drugs. If all goes according to plan, headaches are a symptom that should dissipate within your first three weeks on medication, according to a study published by The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The same study explains that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, one of the classes of antidepressants, are generally more well-tolerated than their counterparts that deal with different brain chemicals. 

Because headaches are most often a result of your body adjusting to the drugs and finding its new homeostasis, you should find relief within a few weeks' time. Though headaches are a standard side effect, those that degrade your quality of life or persist should be assessed by your doctor. Just like other long-term and persistent symptoms, anything that sticks around or seems out of the ordinary deserves prompt medical attention. 

Changes in sex drive and function

Changes in sex drive and function are side effects that many people have heard about anecdotally. This might incite a small bit of fear when it comes to starting antidepressants. Interestingly enough, both decreased and increased sex drives can be born as a result of antidepressant use. Again, these symptoms typically self-rectify after a few weeks of your body working to stabilize in its new chemical state (via Bustle). 

Unfortunately, long-term sexual dysfunction is one side effect of antidepressants. This umbrella term can include erectile dysfunction, reduced sex drive, and struggles in reaching orgasm. If you experience any of these, it is worth discussing with your doctor. In some cases, your doctor might prescribe a different antidepressant altogether, change the dosage, or add in a medication that can help combat these symptoms. The Mayo Clinic even recommends trying to start on a once-a-day medication and scheduling sexual activities before you dose up.

Increased desire to socialize

Without a doubt, there are positive changes that you are likely to experience once you start taking antidepressants. Depression can often encourage isolating, feelings of low energy, and a decreased inclination to engage in social activities. 

Many people with depression find that their low energy inhibits their desire and ability to engage in standard social activities. As you start taking antidepressants, however, this could all change for the better. Since the main goal of starting antidepressants is to release feel-good chemicals in your brain, it is expected that once this starts to happen, you'll begin to feel better (per Bustle).

For a lot of people, this increased energy can manifest in the form of an increased desire to go out and spend time with friends and family. You might even notice that with this comes a heightened ability to engage with other people when you are out socializing.

Mood improvements

Perhaps the main motivating factor behind many people's journeys with antidepressants is the desire to simply feel better. Thankfully, mood improvements are often at the core of what these tiny little pills can help us achieve when they affect our brains. 

Even with the risk of negative side effects, the improvements that antidepressants can have on mood are pretty profound. Many people find that their feelings of sadness, hopeless, and even suicidal thoughts start to subside. Sometimes, this can happen within the first few days and weeks of being on antidepressants; in other cases, it can take months. This all very much depends on how the chemicals of the drug react with your brain chemistry (per Bustle).

When used in conjunction with other mood-boosting habits and protocols such as exercise, a healthy diet, and therapy, antidepressants can work to improve your overall mood and outlook. That said, it is valuable to remember that relying solely on antidepressants might not be the most effective way to alleviate your symptoms. 

Improved productivity

Because antidepressants often cause a spike in energy and mood-boosting elements, this can trickle into your life in many ways. Notably, beginning a regimen of antidepressants can lead to heightened productivity across the board. This can look like better focus and concentration at work or in an educational capacity, but it can also mean heightened productivity in other areas of your life as well (via Bustle). 

Similar to many of the other positive side effects of taking antidepressants, this might be felt immediately. However, it might also take a few months to fully kick in. Either way, a reinvigorated jolt of mental energy and an increased attention span length are definitely both positive attributes. 

One review article in particular broke down the ways in which antidepressants stimulate brain function (via Translational Psychiatry). Here are the basics: The chemical components of antidepressants essentially mingle with what you're already rocking in your brain. Instead of the sad music that the band up there was playing, the antidepressants stimulate the band to play something a bit livelier, which can provide these positive effects for energy and productivity. 

You might start to feel more like yourself

Once you begin taking antidepressants, you might even start feeling more like yourself. This is contrary to the semi-popular belief that antidepressants can turn you into a zombie, a myth perpetuated by pop culture and different works of literature throughout the years. 

While this state of being "over-medicated" can happen, it is important to troubleshoot with your doctor in order to ensure that you are consuming the proper dosage. Once that is dialed in, the goal of the meds is to make you feel more like yourself, not like a watered-down expression of yourself. 

Dr. Elizabeth Cox explained to UNC Health Talk that when prescribed in the right dosage, antidepressants should take away the problematic symptoms to the best of their abilities without changing the fundamentals of your personality. In some cases, anxiety and depression can lead to a foggy, unfocused mind — and antidepressants can be the key to helping alleviate that fog. Dr. Cox reiterates that the main goal of this class of medication is help you enjoy life, not cast a shadow over it. With the right medication, medical care, and dosage, you might start feeling more like yourself.