Side Effects

Because body chemistry amongst individuals can vary greatly, the medication and dosage prescribed will vary from person to person, as will the side effects and benefits to the individual.  Some people with OCD respond well to the first medication prescribed; others will need to try more than one, under medical supervision, to find the one that is most effective.  Most of these medications do not produce immediate symptom relief; some may begin to work after a few weeks, but often it may take 12 weeks or more to notice the benefits.

It’s also important to work with a psychiatrist who is experienced in prescribing and monitoring different types of medication for the treatment of OCD as they will be able to assess their effectiveness and advise about possible side effects. You may need to arrange regular medication reviews with your psychiatrist and, as they are often very busy, it may be down to you to push for regular review appointments.  If medication needs to be discontinued for any reason it is important you discuss this with your psychiatrist and under no circumstances should it be discontinued abruptly.

Many people are apprehensive about taking medications because of their suggested addictive qualities (something commonly claimed by the media). Generally speaking, these medications are not addictive, but they may sometimes have withdrawal symptoms.

People taking SSRIs with short half-lives are much more likely to experience SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome.   A medication's half-life is the time it takes for the plasma concentration of a drug to reach half of its original concentration. More simply put, the half-life of a drug is how long it takes for half of it to be eliminated from the bloodstream. Some SSRI medications have a very short half-life. This means they produce no metabolites that help the medication stay in the body for an extended period. They go in, last a few hours, and come out again. All SSRIs should be withdrawn slowly and under supervision of your GP or Psychiatrist.

Despite their anxiety-reducing effects, all medications can sometimes cause unwanted side effectsas well, which usually diminish as the body adjusts to them. Finding the medication that works best for you is a matter of trial-and-error. Often what works for one person. may not work for someone else.  This is the same with side effects, where one person may experience problems, someone else may not experience any at all. These are just some of the possible side effects that you may experience:

  • Blood pressure changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Breathing problems
  • Chills
  • Confusion
  • Concentration problems
  • Depersonalisation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Discharge from the nipples
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Enlargement of the breasts
  • Erection (spontaneous without sexual desire)
  • Excitable more easily
  • Fast or fluttering heartbeat
  • Feeling sick
  • Hair Loss
  • Headaches
  • Increased appetite
  • Low Libido
  • Memory problems
  • Migraine
  • Palpitations
  • Saliva increase
  • Sexual problems
  • Shakiness
  • Skin rashes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sweating
  • Taste disturbance,
  • Tingling
  • Unsteadiness,
  • Urine – increase in frequency or difficulty passing water
  • Weight gain
  • Yawning more

This is not a conclusive list, so should you experience any of these side effects, or others which become troublesome, it is important that you speak to your GP or psychiatrist.

NICE advise close and regular monitoring after starting an SSRI, and more frequently and closely in certain groups such as younger people.

What is particularly serious, especially in young people, is that medication may cause thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If this happens, talk to your GP, pharmacist or mental health professional immediately. Family members should be asked to keep a close eye on young people taking medication, particularly for signs of depression, thoughts about suicide or self-harm, irritability, aggressiveness, mood changes or other unusual changes in behaviour.

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