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Antidepressants and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and depression can often occur at the same time. Antidepressants may be prescribed along with antipsychotics to treat both problems. Antidepressants affect the actions of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. This can provide relief from symptoms of depression and anxiety. Using antidepressants at the same time as antipsychotics has been found to work well in treating the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. These symptoms include lack of emotion or motivation.

Antidepressants that may be used to treat depression that occurs with schizophrenia include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline (Zoloft) or citalopram (Celexa)

  • Tricyclics, such as nortriptyline hydrochloride (for example, Pamelor)

Antidepressants are usually started at low doses. They are increased over time until symptoms get better. It may take several weeks for you to feel relief from symptoms such as sadness or loss of interest in things that you once enjoyed.

Side effects of SSRIs can include:

  • Nausea, loss of appetite, and diarrhea

  • Anxiety or drowsiness

  • Sleep problems

  • Loss of sexual desire or ability

  • Headaches

Side effects of tricyclics include:

  • Stomach upset and other problems, such as constipation

  • Dry mouth, blurred vision, and drowsiness

  • Lowered blood pressure

  • Weight gain

  • Tremors and sweating

  • Inability to urinate (urinary retention)

  • Loss of sexual desire or ability

  • Confusion or delirium in older adults

Not everyone will have side effects from these medicines.

FDA Advisory: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressants. They pose a risk of suicide. The FDA does not advise that people stop using these medicines. Instead, a person taking an antidepressant should be watched for warning signs of suicide. This is most important at the start of treatment or when the dose is changed. 

Do You Have Thoughts About Suicide?

If you or a loved one has thoughts about death or suicide, call 911 or the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) and press 1, or use other emergency services. Or you can chat with a trained counselor online at

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 8/19/2010
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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