More than 4.7 million Americans take Prozac (fluoxetine), and in 2020 alone, they filled nearly 23 million prescriptions at pharmacies all over the country. What is Prozac used for? This medication helps manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety, but several off-label uses have also been experimented with over the years. While many people derive a great deal of relief from Prozac and its generic counterparts, the medication isn’t entirely risk-free. Prozac side effects range from common and mild to less common but severe, with some overlap between those categories. There are also concerns about harmful drug interactions, behavioral outcomes and even a non-negligible risk of suicide. Fortunately, help is available if you’re having trouble managing either the side effects or the underlying mental health condition you’re taking the Prozac for.

Common Side Effects of Prozac

Whenever a drug enters the market, it’s standard procedure for the FDA to require testing and disclosures for the drug’s effects. As a result, there’s solid information available about what fluoxetine is and its most common side effects, which are also reported by doctors and tracked by the FDA for as long as the medication is on the market.

Most of the common Prozac side effects aren’t life-threatening. They can be unpleasant and distracting, however. While it’s up to you and your doctor whether you stay on Prozac despite the side effects, they aren’t generally signs that your life or health is in danger. As always, it’s important to stick to your prescribed dose and report any side effects you experience to your doctor so you can keep better control of your health.

Common side effects of Prozac include:

  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Insomnia, which can cause difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Unusual or disturbed dreams
  • Nausea and loss of appetite, which may contribute to weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Heartburn
  • Weakness
  • Yawning
  • Stuffy nose
  • Uncontrolled shaking of some part of the body, which may be mild or severe
  • Erectile dysfunction in men and diminished sex drive for women, as well as delayed or absent orgasm
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches, confusion, difficulty concentrating or memory problems

Less Common But Serious Side Effects

While some side effects are normal and expected, others can be a sign of a more serious issue. Fluoxetine, like any other prescription medication, carries the risk of harmful drug interactions, allergic reactions and severe side effects of various kinds. These can either be life-threatening in themselves or can signal a potentially life-threatening condition that has to be reported to emergency services without delay. If you’re taking Prozac or a related drug and develop any of these symptoms, call for medical attention right away.

Allergic Symptoms

Many prescription drugs carry some risk of allergic reaction. This can happen very early in your treatment, or it can develop over time. The danger of a severe allergic reaction revolves around anaphylactic shock and obstruction of the airway. These symptoms can develop within minutes or even seconds of exposure, and they can rapidly become life-threatening. Treatment of severe allergic reactions usually calls for IV antihistamines and observation until the reaction passes, followed by avoidance of the triggering substance.

Signs you may be having an allergic reaction to your Prozac include:

  • Hives or blisters appearing on the skin without another obvious cause
  • Sudden appearance of a rash
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

Neurological Symptoms

Fluoxetine is prescribed because of the effects it has on the brain. While most people derive benefits from these effects, anything that alters your brain function can potentially alter it in negative ways. Watch out for these neurological symptoms, which may either be a sign of a serious drug reaction or develop into a serious problem on their own:

  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Unusually fast or slow heartbeat
  • Irregular heartbeat that doesn’t go away in a few minutes
  • Seizures
  • Agitation or confusion
  • Shivering or severe muscle stiffness and twitching
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Hallucinations, which may be visual or auditory

Other Serious Symptoms

There are several other ways a prescription drug can cause harm. Watch out for these unusual but potentially serious body symptoms that suggest you’re having a negative reaction to fluoxetine side effects:

  • Fever that stays high or won’t go away
  • Joint pain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Vomiting, nausea or diarrhea that lasts longer than a couple of days or causes high levels of discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Abnormal or unexplained bruising or bleeding

Monitoring and Managing Prozac Side Effects

If you’re taking fluoxetine and have any side effects, even mild and transitory ones, you should report them to your doctor as soon as you can. While you may not be experiencing an emergency, it’s important to keep your doctor in the loop about how you’re reacting to your medication. It’s also routine for doctors who prescribe Prozac to collect data on side effects and report them to the FDA for national drug tracking and risk management.

The Role of Health Care Professionals in Addressing Side Effects

Another reason to keep your health provider well-informed about your side effects is that you might have other options open to you. Your doctor can consult with you about alternative therapies for depression. If you both decide not to switch medications, your doctor might reduce your dose somewhat to limit the discomfort you’re experiencing, or you might get a secondary prescription that can help manage the side effects you’re most concerned about.

Getting Help for Depression and Fluoxetine Side Effects

You don’t have to put up with negative fluoxetine side effects any more than you had to accept the depression and anxiety Prozac is meant to treat. If you’re struggling with a mental health condition, mood disorder or even unpleasant reactions to the medication that’s treating these conditions, contact Sunlight Recovery today for a free consultation. Our experienced, compassionate counselors can talk with you about your situation and help you get on the road to recovery and better health for life.