Background: Studies of the adverse effects of antidepressants tend to focus on biological
symptoms. The prevalence of suicidality and withdrawal effects are currently a source of controversy.
Objective: To directly ascertain the experiences of an international sample of antidepressant users.
Methods: An online survey asked adult antidepressant users whether they had experienced 20 adverse
effects ‘as a result of taking the antidepressant’, and if so, to what degree of severity. 1,431 people,
from 38 countries, responded.
Results: 61% of the respondents reported at least ten of the 20 adverse effects, most commonly:
‘Feeling emotionally numb’ (reported by 71%), ‘Feeling foggy or detached’ (70%); ‘Feeling not like
myself’ (66%), ‘Sexual difficulties’ (66%), ‘Drowsiness’ (63%), and ‘Reduction in positive feelings’
(60%). ‘Suicidality’ as a result of the drugs was reported by 50%. Withdrawal effects were reported by
59%, and ‘Addiction’ by 40%. Rates of adverse effects were higher for those prescribed multiple
antidepressants and those who also took antipsychotics. Younger age and longer use of ADs were
positively related to total adverse effects. One third did not recall being told about any side effects by
the prescriber. Less than 5% were told about suicidality, emotional numbing, withdrawal effects or
Conclusion: Asking people directly reveals far higher rates of adverse responses to antidepressants
than previously understood, especially in the emotional, psychological and interpersonal domains.
Given recent findings that antidepressants are only marginally more effective than placebo, the findings
of the current study imply a cost-benefit analysis that cannot justify the extremely high prescription
rates for these drugs.