Antidepressants get a bad rap. People who take them are stigmatized as lazy, letting a drug combat their depression instead of working it out themselves.
If you take antidepressants regularly, don’t feel ashamed. Mental illnesses are legitimate illnesses that require treatment. If you had high blood pressure, you would take high blood pressure medication, right?
If you’re unfamiliar with antidepressants, you may want to consider the following facts before drawing conclusions about them.
Therapy Is Expensive
Sometimes, people who take antidepressants are asked why they don’t do psychotherapy instead. There’s a belief that antidepressants are an “easy way out” or a bandage solution that doesn’t really fix real problems.
Psychotherapy is very expensive, and it is also often not covered by health insurance. With prices that soar to a $100 or more an hour, evidence-based psychotherapy — though effective — is simply out of the question for many people.
Medication isn’t cheap either, but health insurance may cover some prescriptions. Moreover, you can find opportunities to buy significantly cheaper prescription drugs online. International and Canadian pharmacy referral sites like Canada Med Pharmacy help people with chronic illnesses, such as depression, afford the regular treatment they need.
Antidepressants Aren’t Happy Pills
Some people mistakenly think that antidepressants are magical pills that make you happy. This is not the case.
Firstly, most modern antidepressant drugs aren’t taken “as-needed.” If you’re sad, you can’t just swallow a pill to make it go away. Instead, people must take antidepressants regularly and wait a few weeks to even a month or more before beneficial effects take place.
One of the more popular classes of antidepressants is the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). Drugs belonging to this class work by promoting the re-absorption of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Re-absorption of serotonin is thought to help stimulate neurogenesis – that is, growth of new neurons, which may alleviate symptoms of depression.
Antidepressants Aren’t Just for Depression
Not everyone who takes antidepressants has depression. Patients with anxiety disorders, panic disorder, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder may take antidepressants too. Sometimes, antidepressants are given to menopausal women to help ease symptoms of menopause. The atypical antidepressant bupropion is even used to help smokers quit.
Antidepressants Aren’t Perfect
Many people who take antidepressants have to deal with unwanted side effects. This may include weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and even, ironically, suicidal thoughts when the medication is first begun.
Therefore, for many people, antidepressants aren’t something they want to take, but something they need to take. Many patients want to finish their antidepressant treatments as soon as possible. Or their doctors may combine antidepressants with other drugs to offset unpleasant side effects, which further complicates the patient’s medication schedule.
Do I Need to Take Antidepressants?
How do you know if your low mood or anxious state is just regular sadness or clinically significant? If your symptoms start to interfere with your daily life, such as keeping you from performing well in work or school, you may want to consider seeing a professional.
The following are symptoms of depression. Patients typically experience these symptoms for two weeks or more:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, and emptiness
- Loss of interest in once pleasurable activities
- Fatigue and slow movement
- Problems with focusing
- Appetite change, weight gain or loss
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Physical symptoms like inexplicable aches and pains
If you or someone you know is in danger of hurting themselves or others, get help right away. This is considered a medical emergency, so take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Talking to Your Doctor about Mental Health
If you think your mental health problems may be serious, talk to your family doctor first. A physician can see if other medical conditions are causing your symptoms. Family doctors can also refer you to appropriate specialists and resources, such as a counselor or psychiatrist.
You may be hesitant to talk to your doctor about depression. The following tips might help:
- Complete an online questionnaire and bring the results to your appointment. These tests aren’t meant to diagnose you, but they can help make communication easier.
- If the questionnaire doesn’t adequately reflect your symptoms, take notes on your own and bring them to the appointment.
- Avoid mentioning medication right away. Due to bad experiences, some health-care professionals may incorrectly assume you are a drug-seeker.
- Remember that all medical doctors are trained to talk to patients about difficult illnesses like depression, regardless of their specialty. A judgmental doctor is an unprofessional doctor. You have the right to find another physician if your current one is not a good fit.
Outside of health-care professionals, you can connect with other people with similar mental health disorders. Discussion forums like Reddit can be good places to find empathetic support. There are also plenty of online resources, such as this pamphlet from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
Antidepressants are psychoactive drugs, but unlike alcohol and marijuana, you can’t get high off them. Don’t be ashamed of taking medication for your mental health condition. Instead, know that you are taking responsibility for your health and proactively treating it.