Antidepressants are not the first thing you think of in relation to the menopause. But they can ease some of the symptoms of the menopause which include hot flushes, anxiety and mood swings.

They can also treat depression.

Small doses of antidepressants can be beneficial and are an option for women who for whatever reason, choose not to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

But they are not as effective as HRT in treating hot flushes. If you have severe hot flushes then antidepressants may not be the answer.

Your GP will ask you about your medical history and current state of health before prescribing this drug. If you have a history of heart disease, problems with liver function or any other medical condition then mention this to him/her.

Your GP may decide that you are not suitable for antidepressants but will recommend an alternative.

What are antidepressants?

This is the name given to a type of medication which is prescribed for depression. These are available only on prescription from your GP and are available as a tablet, capsule or as a liquid.

Your GP will advise you about taking antidepressants and their side effects.

There are two types of antidepressants which are:

  • Tricyclics, e.g. Tofranil
  • Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), e.g. Prozac

These work in different ways.

Tricyclics work by raising levels of serotonin and noradrenaline: these are two types of neurotransmitters (chemicals produced by nerve cells within the brain) which are responsible for mood and other mental states.

Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors raise levels of serotonin only.

People who suffer from depression tend to have low levels of serotonin and noradrenaline which causes feelings of low self-esteem, poor concentration, apathy and a lack of energy.

These symptoms are also common to the menopause which can make it difficult to determine if they are caused by this transition or are depression.

Side effects of antidepressants

All medicines have side effects and antidepressants are no different in that aspect.

These side effects vary according to whether you are taking tricyclics or SSRI’s.

Tricyclic side effects include:

  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty when passing urine
  • Blurred/double vision
  • Constipation

These side effects develop almost immediately but will settle down and disappear after a period of time.

SSRI’s side effects include:

  • Sexual problems
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances/insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches

These are less common than those side effects caused by taking tricyclics.

If you are concerned about these effects then discuss this with your GP. He/she will provide you with information about antidepressants which includes side effects.

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