To Take or Not to Take Antidepressants
By Anna Ganser
Anxiety is a public health crisis in the US. With 18.1 percent of the population over the age of 18 dealing with anxiety disorders, it can be hard to know exactly what treatment will work best for each person. It is common for disorders to overlap and symptoms to become intertwined, making treatment more difficult.
Different treatments are supported by scholars from professional backgrounds, and personal experiences vary from very successful to horrible. Specifically, antidepressant medications have been debated over the past few years on whether or not the average person should be taking them.
It can be hard to understand all that lies beneath the decision to treat depression with antidepressants. This article will dissect antidepressants and their pros and cons so that you, the reader, can make an effective, informed decision after consulting a professional.
Understanding the medication
The US National Library of Medicine defines Major Depressive Disorder as: “(MDD) is the most common mood disorder in the United States with a lifetime prevalence of 14.4 percent. MDD is a chronic, recurring, and debilitating mental disorder that significantly impairs occupational and/or social functioning.” Simply put, this mood-altering disorder affects its host to a point where they are inhibited or prevented from performing social tasks, sometimes even mundane tasks such as getting out of bed or working out.
The first major medication for depression was introduced to the U.S. 50 years ago, then starting the train of antidepressants that we see today. The most common medications are Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin and Norepinephrine Inhibitors (SNRIs).
Not only is the specific medication different for different people, but also the length of treatment and what symptoms they see treated by a specific medication.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness writes of differences in treatment, saying, “In some cases, psychiatric medication may be a short-term aid taken only for a few months. In others, medication may be long-term, or even lifelong. Some people are afraid that taking a medication will change their personality, but most find that medication allows them to take charge of their lives.”
Many people have found that going to counseling, along with taking the medication, is what improves depression symptoms the fastest. Health Link BC even mentions that patients can see improvements in mental state in as early as one to three weeks. They also mention that patients are sometimes able to taper off of the medication without the depression occurring again later.
Many professionals agree that antidepressants are a good way to treat symptoms. Rajnish Mago, MD, director of the mood disorders program and an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, writes that they are not, despite the common misconception, addictive.
They do, however, need to be tapered off of when the patient wants to get off of the medication. Familydoctor.org sees antidepressants as worthwhile for treating symptoms of depression, “You will be able to sleep better. You’ll be better able to meet your day-to-day obligations and take care of yourself. You will have more energy. Your appetite will be closer to normal. You will have an increased desire to engage in life … Be patient, though. It may take some time to get back to the way you felt before the depression.” Simply seeing these improvements have shown antidepressants to be a good idea when taken safely.
The Mayo Clinic reports that different medications are better for different people. Each person has their own way of reacting to medication, a different set of symptoms and different daily routines.
National Alliance on Mental Illness agrees, stating, “Choosing the right mix of treatments and supports that work for you is an important step in the recovery process … Even people with the same diagnosis will have different experiences, needs, goals and objectives for treatment.” They both concur that antidepressants are mostly safe and completely non-addictive, though they do have negative side effects (as does any drug).
Antidepressants are mostly safe, but many people who have taken, or are taking, antidepressants have experienced negative side effects.
These warnings include a dull mind/emotions, loss of appetite, trouble falling asleep, weight gain and memory suppression. It is difficult to predict what will happen to each person as they begin and potentially stop taking antidepressants, and it is difficult to stop taking the drugs once the mind has become accustomed to the artificial creation of chemicals in the brain.
Wendy Murray, author of “15 Tips for Quitting Antidepressants,” had a very bad experience taking antidepressants, and strongly discourages their use. In an email, she wrote, “I knew it was time to get off this medication when I perceived that my mind was increasingly dull, my emotional threshold was flat, and my memory becoming more muddled. I could tell that the medication was ‘turning on me’ and doing more harm than good.”
She writes that it was “excruciatingly difficult” to taper off of the medication she was on. “When a person removes this artificial element to the brain’s functioning, the brain ‘goes haywire’ (for lack of a better way of putting it) as it is trying to figure out how to function normally again, after being changed by the drug,” she said. Murray, and others like her, experienced the extremely difficult time of weaning off of the drugs. Murray later found that herbal and supplemental ingredients were a better solution for her.
Finding out what’s best for you
Making the decision to medicate, or to not medicate, for depression is a difficult one. Though many people have taken antidepressants are seeing positive changes in their lives, many people have gone through tragic situations because of them.
Do your research, talk to those who have experienced positives and negatives and talk to your doctor before making a decision.
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