Do Antidepressants Affect Puberty?
Antidepressants are common treatments for various kinds of mental conditions and disorders such as depression and anxiety.
And if you are a teenager, or a parent of a teenager, who is unfortunately suffering from one of these conditions, you might be wondering if antidepressants affect puberty — specifically, if antidepressants affect puberty in a negative way.
To get to the answer, it is first important to fully understand what antidepressants are, the types of antidepressants, and how antidepressants work.
So, in this guide, we run through and answer these frequently asked questions about antidepressants, including whether antidepressants negatively affect puberty.
By the time you have finished reading, you should have a better understanding of antidepressants and whether you, or someone you know, should take them.
What Are Antidepressants?
Antidepressants are inhibitors that alter chemical reactions in the brain, also called neurotransmitters and chemical messengers.
As a medication, antidepressants are used to treat mental conditions and disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, BPD, and so on.
Antidepressants are taken orally and are typically prescribed by a doctor. The doctor will assess the patient as to whether the antidepressants will be beneficial to the patient and safe to take overall.
There are also different types of antidepressants, as well as different pharmaceutical manufacturers, or pharmaceutical brands, of antidepressants.
One of the most commonly known, and widely taken, antidepressants is Prozac.
Like any medication, antidepressants present both benefits and side effects. The efficacy of these depends on the patient in question.
Overall, antidepressants are used to improve mood and alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other unwanted mental conditions and disorders.
Types Of Antidepressants
There are different types of antidepressants, and which of these is prescribed will depend on the patient and their specific mental condition.
The most common antidepressants are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). SSRI antidepressants are often the first to be prescribed by a doctor for patients who are trying antidepressants for the first time.
The next most common antidepressants are SNRIs (selective norepinephrine uptake inhibitors). SNRI antidepressants are similar to SSRIs, except they alter chemical imbalances related to norepinephrine, instead of serotonin.
Other types of antidepressants include MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants, and atypical antidepressants.
However, these are often prescribed when SSRI and SNRI antidepressants prove ineffective.
For some patients, a mixture of these might be prescribed, or a combination that involves antidepressants paired with another medication that is not an antidepressant.
How Do Antidepressants Work?
So, how do antidepressants work exactly?
The reason we feel happy, content, motivated, confident, grateful – and so on – is due to chemical reactions in the brain that happen as a result of experiencing things that make us feel this way.
This is a natural process. These chemical messengers, which send these signals to the brain, are also called neurotransmitters.
Some of the most well-known neurotransmitters include serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and norepinephrine.
Serotonin is linked to feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Dopamine is linked to feelings of motivation and high self-esteem. Oxytocin is linked to feelings of being appreciated and loved.
And norepinephrine is linked to feelings of fear and anger.
As a result, antidepressants work by balancing these chemical reactions. For example, increasing serotonin and dopamine levels to a healthy amount, or decreasing levels of norepinephrine to a healthy amount.
While antidepressants can be effective, it is also possible to fix these chemical imbalances in the brain through natural methods, such as improving one’s general health and lifestyle.
Do Antidepressants Affect Puberty?
Now, onto the main question, do antidepressants negatively affect puberty?
This refers to and includes the growth in teenagers as a result of puberty, as well as general libido (sex drive) and the ability to orgasm, ejaculate, and achieve an erection.
Unfortunately, the answer to this is not widely confirmed. So, the only answer is that it can vary depending on the patient, which will ultimately be determined by the doctor.
Antidepressants, such as SSRIs, have been linked to having adverse endocrinologic effects – hormone imbalances – in adults, as well as some sexual side effects and a possible stunt in growth rate in young adults.
Despite that, there have also been studies showing antidepressants to have little to no side effects on the growth and puberty of children and teenagers.
Therefore, the answer is unclear. Ultimately, the decision to take antidepressants is decided by, and monitored by, the doctor.
It is also important to monitor any changes you, or your child, experiences while taking antidepressants.
The Advantages of Antidepressants
Summarized, here are the advantages of antidepressants, or benefits of antidepressants:
- can temporarily relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions
- generally safe to take for most individuals
- easy to take (through oral ingestion)
- can help to return one’s appetite, sex drive, and overall motivation
- can improve sleep that is being negatively impacted by depression or anxiety
The main benefit of taking antidepressants is that they offer a quick and easy fix for undesirable mental conditions such as depression and anxiety and their related symptoms.
They are generally safe to take, as well as easy to take, and can help the patient to feel better and return to their usual activities or schedule.
The Side Effects of Antidepressants
Summarized, here are the side effects of antidepressants, or disadvantages of antidepressants:
- may present side effects – dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, weight gain, headaches, and sexual dysfunction
- patients can become dependent (reliant) or addicted
- patients may experience a “crash” once the effects of antidepressants wear off
- only a temporary solution to depression, anxiety, and so on
Like any medication or supplement, there are possible side effects. But, in general, these are rare, not considered extremely harmful, and may only occur if antidepressants are taken in an excessive amount.
The main disadvantage to antidepressants, however, is that they are a temporary solution only.
Patients can experience a “crash” after the effects wear off, and can therefore become dependent on, or addicted to, antidepressants and the feelings associated with using them.
Should You Take Antidepressants?
Nothing should stop you, or someone you know, from taking antidepressants if they have been safely prescribed by a doctor and prove to be effective and beneficial.
In general, SSRI antidepressants are considered safe to take for pregnant women.
For teenagers and young children, the side effects, if any, can vary, and will depend entirely on the individual themselves and the doctor’s recommendation.
Ultimately, it is best to monitor antidepressant use with regular check-ups by a doctor or health professional.
It is also worth knowing that antidepressants offer a temporary solution to mental conditions and disorders by balancing chemical reactions that can be worked on naturally
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin can be self-managed by leading a healthy, happy lifestyle — including getting enough sleep, exercise, good nutrition, nature, new experiences, achievements, socializing, laughter, intimacy, music, and doing things we enjoy in general.
The short answer: whether antidepressants affect puberty – growth and libido – in teenagers is not entirely clear.
Adverse side effects may or not occur, and can depend wholly on the individual. As a result, it is always best to have antidepressants prescribed by, and monitored by, a doctor or health professional.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing and suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or any other mental condition, it is important to get help immediately – whether that involves professional help, medication, or simply someone to talk to.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: September 24, 2023