When seeking treatment for depression, most patients undergo a combination of counseling and antidepressants to help them deal with their condition. When it comes to the use of antidepressant, 40 percent of patients improve using the first one they were prescribed. Even if the first medication doesn’t make an immediate impact, the second or third prescribed antidepressant usually will.
While most patients find that antidepressants make dealing with their depression a lot easier, many people refuse to try the medication due to fears about what the drug may do to them. To help you understand whether antidepressants are right for you, here are five common fears about the medication along with the facts about how antidepressants can help.
Fear: Antidepressants don’t help you deal with problems, only to forget them.
No prescription medication can make you forget about your problems, which sounds more like wishful thinking than actual treatment. Antidepressants can, however, make it easier for you to deal with the problems at hand. Depression can alter your perception about your problems and drain you of the energy needed to address these difficult issues. Therapists prescribe patients antidepressants because the medication helps them make progress dealing with their issues, not because it represses what’s wrong.
Fear: You become a zombie or lose your personality while on antidepressants.
When taken as prescribed, antidepressant will have no effect on your personality. The medication will actually help you feel more like yourself than when mired in a depression, and they will restore your ability to function. Experiencing a loss of emotions or apathy is extremely rare while on antidepressants, and in the unlikely event that should occur, switching to another antidepressant may help.
Fear: You’ll gain weight while on antidepressants.
Like all medications, antidepressants have side effects, and weight gain is fairly common. Certain types of antidepressants may cause you to gain weight, while others may cause you to lose weight. Since depressed individuals usually eat less, weight gain can actually be a positive sign if it means your appetite has returned. If fluctuation of weight becomes a concern, talk with your doctor.
Fear: Once I start taking antidepressants, I’ll have to continue for the rest of my life.
The majority of patients who first begin taking antidepressants need to remain on the medication anywhere from six to nine months. Once the medication helps you gain control of your depression, you can begin working with your therapist to slowly reduce your dependence on antidepressants. The more progress you make controlling your depression without the use of antidepressants, the stronger your coping skills become and the less likely you’ll need to return to using medications to deal with depression.
Fear: Talking antidepressants increase the risk of suicide.
Recently a number of studies have expressed concerns about whether the use of antidepressants increases the risk of suicidal behaviors or thoughts (but not deaths) among young adults, adolescents, and children. For example, a 2009 review published in the British Medical Journal that examined 372 studies involving roughly 100,000 people taking antidepressants found that young adults and children taking the medication had a slightly higher risk of suicidal thoughts when compared to those taking a placebo. However, the review also found no increase in suicidal thoughts among individuals between the ages of 25 to 64 who were talking antidepressants.
Conversely, other studies have shown that antidepressants have made a huge difference saving lives. A 2006 study found that prior to the release of the popular antidepressant Prozac, suicide rates had remain consistent for the previous 15 years in the U.S. Following the drugs release, suicide rates steadily plunged for 14 years as sales of Prozac continued to rise.
Regardless of whether or not you take an antidepressant, you should immediately talk with a doctor if you begin experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Timothy Lemke is a freelance health and science writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Lance Heppler, a Vancouver, WA dentist.