mental health

Should I take antidepressants?

The decision to go on to antidepressants is often an overwhelming one. And, worse, it’s a decision you have to make during what’s already a tough time! If you’ve never been on medication before, the idea can be scary. But some people benefit a lot from antidepressants. Let’s talk it through a bit.

Antidepressants are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs. Between 2017 and 2018, 17% of the adult UK population were prescribed antidepressants. In the UK, over 65s are more likely to be on antidepressants than any other age group. Whilst people may keep it private, the chances are that some of the people around you take antidepressants. Even people you think are quite normal!

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What are antidepressants effective against?

Doctors prescribe antidepressants not just for depression, but also for managing anxiety disorders and the likes of PTSD and OCD. There’s nothing wrong with taking an antidepressant to treat one of these, even if you don’t think you are depressed.

What are the side effects of antidepressants?

The side effects of antidepressants tend to be worse in the first few days and weeks, then gradually tail off. It’s common to experience nausea and to generally feel a bit unwell. Don’t be too worried by the thought of side effects. Usually, the side effects aren’t so bad and most people just feel a bit unwell for a few days. For people who do suffer too much with side effects, your doctor will be able to prescribe you a different antidepressant., which you may find suits you better. Unfortunately, there can be some trial and error in finding one that that works for you.

How will antidepressants make me feel?

Antidepressants aren’t happy pills. You don’t take them and suddenly feel happy. They also don’t change who you are. That’s not how it works. Actually, they shouldn’t interfere with your emotions much at all, except by taking the edge off the more harsher feelings.

Hopefully, you will find that things don’t upset you as much as they used to and that your mood is more stable. You should feel a bit calmer and a bit less irritable and overall a bit more content!

Antidepressants shouldn’t numb your emotions. For example, while you might find that you experience a lot less life stress in general, you’ll still feel stressed in a job interview. Equally, you absolutely should still be able to feel happiness and joy.

Antidepressants should make you feel more able to cope with your life, but they won’t drastically change it. If they work, you will find you have more energy and motivation to make positive changes to your life, though. For example, maybe you feel stuck in a job you dislike because you don’t have the mental energy to search for something else. Or perhaps you are trapped in a bad relationship because you don’t feel confident enough to take a step into the unknown. Medication might just help with that.

But none of this is instant. Most antidepressants can take up to 6 weeks to be fully effective, though they will usually yield improvement before that.

Antidepressants aren’t working for me, what should I do?

If you find that antidepressants aren’t working for you or are making you feel worse, you should discuss this with your doctor.

There are options your doctor should present to you. There is always the possibility of coming off them, but you may wish to try a different kind of antidepressant. The most frequently prescribed belong to a family called SSRIs, though there is another family called SNRIs which some people prefer. In fact there are a lot of different types!

What about withdrawal effects when coming off antidepressants?

Some people struggle to come off antidepressants as sudden withdrawal tends to cause anxiety and depression symptoms, and just feeling irritable.

Often, doctors will advise you to reduce your dose over the course of a few weeks, going from a full dose to zero. But too fast a withdrawal will make problems more likely. If you start to experience withdrawal symptoms, you are probably coming off them too quickly. Don’t be too concerned if this is the case, just slow it down a bit and consider pausing on a lower does for a while until you feel more stable.

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