Home > Side Effects of Antidepressants (SSRIs) > Side Effects of Antidepressants (SSRIs)

Side Effects of Antidepressants (SSRIs)

The below information is taken from a report which overviews the side effects of common psychiatric drugs and includes information on drug regulatory agency warnings, studies and other reports that may not appear in the packaging information for the drugs themselves.

(Called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs)

Brand Names:

Symbyax (Antidepressant/Antipsychotic mix)

Side Effects:

Akathisia (severe restlessness)
Bizarre dreams
Emotional numbing
Heart attacks
Hypomania (abnormal excitement)
Loss of appetite
Memory lapses
Panic attacks
Psychotic episodes
Sexual dysfunction
Suicidal thoughts or
Violent behavior
Weight loss
Withdrawal symptoms
include deeper


1997: Candace B. Pert, Research Professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., wrote that SSRIs “may also cause cardiovascular problems in some susceptible people after long-term use, which has become common practice despite the lack of safety studies.”27

March 22, 2004: The FDA warned that SSRIs could cause “anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, akathisia (severe restlessness), hypomania (abnormal excitement) and mania (psychosis characterized by exalted feelings, delusions of grandeur).”28

August 20, 2004: A Columbia University review of the pediatric clinical trials of Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, Paxil, Prozac and another older antidepressant, found that young people who took them could experience suicidal thoughts or actions.29

2004: The British Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (similar to the FDA) issued guidelines that children should not be given most SSRIs because clinical trial data showed an increased rate of harmful outcomes, including hostility.30

October 15, 2004: The FDA ordered pharmaceutical companies to add a “black box” warning to all antidepressants because the drugs could cause suicidal thoughts and actions in children and teenagers. The agency also directed the manufacturers to print and distribute medication guides with every antidepressant prescription and to inform patients of the risks.31

October 21, 2004: The New Zealand Medicines Adverse Reactions Committee recommended that old and new antidepressants not be administered to patients less than 18 years of age because of the potential risk of suicide.32

December 2004: The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration said children and adolescents prescribed SSRI antidepressants should be carefully monitored for the emergence of suicidal ideation. In a study involving Prozac, it said, there was an increase in adverse psychiatric events (acts and thoughts of suicide, self-harm, aggression, violence).33

December 9, 2004: The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, representing 25 European countries, recommended that product information should be changed for antidepressants to warn of the risk of suicide-related behavior in children and adolescents and of withdrawal reactions on stopping treatment. This was reaffirmed in April 2005, warning that the drugs increased suicide-related behavior and hostility in young people.34

February 18, 2005: A study published in the British Medical Journal determined that adults taking SSRI antidepressants were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as patients given placebo (a drug with no real effect; it contains no active ingredients given to a patient in a clinical trial in order to assess the performance of a new drug).35

June 30, 2005: The FDA warned about a potential increased risk of suicidal behavior in adults taking antidepressants, broadening its earlier warning that related only to children and adolescents taking the drugs.36

July 16, 2005: The British Medical Journal published a study, “Efficacy of antidepressants in adults,” by Joanna Moncrieff, senior lecturer in psychiatry at University College London who found that antidepressants, in particular SSRIs, were no more effective than a placebo and do not reduce depression. In a media interview on the study, Dr. Moncrieff stated, “The bottom line is that we really don’t have any good evidence that these drugs work.”37

August 2005: The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration found a relationship between SSRIs and suicidality, akathisia (severe restlessness), agitation, nervousness and anxiety in adults. Similar symptoms could occur during withdrawal from the drugs, it determined.38

August 19, 2005: The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use issued its strongest warning against child SSRI antidepressant use, stating that the drugs caused suicide attempts and thoughts, aggression, hostility, oppositional behavior and anger.39

August 22, 2005: Norwegian researchers found that patients taking SSRI antidepressants were seven times more likely to experience suicide than those taking placebo.40

May 1, 2006: An American Journal of Psychiatry study revealed that elderly people prescribed SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are almost five times more likely to commit suicide during the first month on the drugs than those given other classes of antidepressants.41


February 5, 2005: An analysis of World Health Organization medical records found that infants whose mothers took SSRI antidepressants while pregnant could suffer withdrawal effects.42

September 7, 2005: The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration warned that SSRI antidepressant use during pregnancy could cause “withdrawal effects that can be severe or life-threatening.”43

September 27, 2005: The FDA warned that Paxil and other SSRI antidepressants taken during the first trimester of pregnancy could cause increased risk of major birth defects, including heart malformations in newborn infants.44

February 6, 2006: A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine determined that nearly one-third of newborn infants whose mothers took SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy experienced withdrawal symptoms that included high-pitched crying, tremors and disturbed sleep.45

March 10, 2006: Health Canada issued a warning that pregnant women taking SSRIs and other newer antidepressants placed newborns at risk of developing a rare lung and heart condition.46


June 30, 2005: The FDA warned that the latest antidepressant Cymbalta could increase suicidal thinking or behavior in pediatric patients taking it.47

October 17, 2005: The FDA ordered Eli Lilly & Co. to add a warning to the packaging of its antidepressant Cymbalta, that it could cause liver damage.48


December 8, 2005: The FDA warned that Paxil taken by pregnant women in their first trimester may cause birth defects, including heart malformations.49

May 12, 2006: GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Paxil, sent a letter to doctors warning that its antidepressant increases the risk of suicide in adults. It was the first warning of its kind by a manufacturer.50


December 17, 2004: The FDA required that packaging for Strattera carry a new warning advising, “Severe liver damage may progress to liver failure resulting in death or the need for a liver transplant in a small percentage of patients.”51 The drug should be discontinued in patients who develop jaundice (condition that causes yellowness of the skin, eyes and body fluids) or liver injury. The FDA noted, “The labeling warns that severe liver damage may progress to liver failure resulting in death or the need for a liver transplant in a small percentage of patients.”52 Signs of the possible liver problems include jaundice, dark urine, unexplained flu-like symptoms, upper right-side abdominal tenderness and a form of itchy skin known as pruritus (caused by irritation of the sensory nerve endings).53 Other common side effects are headache, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, anorexia (eating “disorder”) and weight loss, nervousness, somnolence (drowsiness).54

September 29, 2005: The FDA directed Eli Lilly & Co. to revise Strattera labeling to include a boxed warning about the increased risk of suicidal thinking in children and adolescents taking it.55

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights investigates and exposes psychiatric violations of human rights. It works shoulder-to-shoulder with like-minded groups and individuals who share a common purpose to clean up the field of mental health. It shall continue to do so until psychiatry’s abusive and coercive practices cease and human rights and dignity are returned to all.

For further information consult the Physicians’ Desk Reference, which can be found at http://www.pdrhealth.com. It could be dangerous to immediately cease taking psychiatric drugs because of significant and dangerous withdrawal side effects. No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the advice and assistance of a competent, medical doctor. This report and CCHR does not offer medical advice or recommendations.

  1. Jennifer
    September 30, 2008 at 6:02 am

    Prozac made me hypomanic, impaired my judgment and concentration, and made me depressed and anxious. For several years on it I could hardly think straight. I still have problems from that stuff; for example, I can’t necessarily eat like a normal person and I have to take something to keep my serotonin down, though I suspect it’s uneven.

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