“Antidepressants” is a staple term in the mental health community because of their common usage in helping relieve Depression and Anxiety symptoms, as well as other diagnoses, but should you take them? And what should you expect if you do?
Let me preface this by saying I am not a licensed medical professional who is able to give medical advice. This article is simply me giving anecdotal information from my experiences with antidepressants, and reporting on some knowledge I’ve learned from my doctor, psychiatrist, and the Internet of course!
It wasn’t until a little over a year ago that my depression and anxiety were overcoming me. I had become sick of not feeling like I was myself, having loved ones constantly asking what was wrong and having no real, solid explanation for how I was feeling, and having no drive to even just wake up and get out of bed anymore. I had become the most depressed I had ever been which in turn fueled my anxiety to an overwhelming level as well. My performance in college was shaky at best, my relationship was continuing but I wasn’t being the partner I wanted to be, and my family was perplexed by the fact that I was telling them I was depressed – they didn’t want to believe it. I’m sure many of you have reached this breaking point before and whether or not you are currently taking medication, thinking about it, or have previously taken medication, I think this article will be helpful to anyone.
After I reached my all time low I decided it was time to finally seek out professional help. At the time I didn’t have a current primary doctor and didn’t want to find one, being busy with college and such, so I reached out to the school’s nurse practitioner. I explained to her how I was feeling and what was being effected in my day to day life. She agreed that I definitely was experiencing severe depression and anxiety and suggested medications. Like some of you, I was honestly terrified of being put on something that essentially attempts to correct your brain chemistry, but I needed help. Anything. I was desperate to feel better. She explained to me the medications she thought would be appropriate: Zoloft and Buspar. I was skeptical about the Zoloft because I had a friend who had pretty serious negative side effects from it and expressed my concern to the nurse practitioner who understood. I agreed to try the Buspar which is more geared towards treating anxiety and unfortunately it really never helped and had some side effects that I’ll get into a little later on in this post.
Did you feel overwhelmed reading that experience? Me too, that’s why being informed with as many unbiased sources will help you when the time comes to talk to a medical professional about medications.
So what are antidepressants?
Antidepressants are a group of medications designed to help treat anxiety, depression, seasonal affective disorder, and other conditions. They’re generally broken up into different medication classes:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – this class of medication inhibits, or prevents, the reuptake of serotonin. This is the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants.
Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) – this class of medication not only inhibits reuptake of serotonin, but also norepinephrine. For me, this class was prescribed after negative side effects and little relief from SSRIs.
Norepinephrine-dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors (NDRIs) – as seen in the name, this class of antidepressants inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine. This class of medication is interesting because they are less likely to cause side effects that are commonly associated with antidepressants. Some of these medications are even used to treat diagnoses such as ADHD, narcolepsy, and can sometimes be used to help in Parkinson’s Disease treatment.
Atypical Antidepressants – these are medications that aren’t necessarily classed as traditional antidepressants but have been shown to treat it in some people.
Tricyclic Antidepressants – this was a class of drugs discovered in the 1950’s and unfortunately have higher likelihood of negative symptoms when compared to newer classes of drugs. Doctors don’t usually prescribed these meds as the first line of defense.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) – this class I’m not all that familiar with, but they’ve always intrigued me. These are usually prescribed when other classes of drugs have failed because of the potential for very serious negative side effects. You even have to follow a strict diet to avoid any kind of food-drug interactions.
Should You Try Antidepressants?
I’ve had family and friends who have expressed concern to me about “being afraid of being put on prescription medications.” They have a valid reason to be concerned about them because it’s something new and they don’t know much about them. However, at the same time if someone is truly having a hard time coping with depressive or anxious feelings then medications can be a very helpful tool. This breaks my answer into two parts:
Yes – from human to human (again, not a doctor), if you feel like you’re unable to cope with your symptoms then yes I think at the very least you should contact your primary care doctor and discuss everything about antidepressants. Make of list of all the questions and concerns you have and go over it with them. That is their job after all! Medications and the idea of taking them sound more intimidating than they really are, trust me!
Maybe not – I’ll never say full on no because I think utilizing all the tools in the toolbox is going to be the most effective treatment…and that includes antidepressants. However, if you’re still able to function rather “normally,” cope with your symptoms somewhat effectively, and don’t feel as if you’re being smothered by a giant depression or anxiety blanket, then maybe try seeking out therapy, meditation, or yoga first before thinking, ‘okay it’s time to get on antidepressants.’ Who knows? Sometimes people find complete relief of symptoms just from simple methods like those – and they are helpful to anyone even if they don’t completely solve the symptoms.
What Can I Expect While Taking Antidepressants?
You can expect to feel…just kidding! This is the number one question I googled before deciding to even talk to my doctor about medications. I would research side effects, how others felt on various popular medications, and tried to get an idea of what I would feel like. This isn’t a bad thing to do, and, in fact I encourage it! There’s no harm in finding out all the symptoms of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants and other’s individual reports of their experience with taking them. However, the biggest thing to keep in mind is that everyone is different with these medications, but knowing the most common side effects will prepare you for how you could feel while taking them. The interesting thing about these medications though is that side effects can lessen in severity or even disappear the longer you take the drug.
So my answer is, I have no idea how you’ll feel! That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try them, however. When you first start on an antidepressant you’ll be prescribed the lowest, or a lower than average dosage for, in my experience, about 4-6 weeks to gauge the initial side effects and determine if those initial side effects lessen, or go away, the longer you take them. My biggest piece of advice when “trialing” medications is DO NOT be afraid to speak up to your doctor and tell them that a certain medication is making you feel such undesirable side effects to the degree that they outweigh the positive effects. At that point they’ll probably suggest or prescribe a new medicine. Sometimes the process of finding a medication or medication combo that works can take some time, along with trial and error – try not to lose hope during this time. There is something out there for everyone, even if it isn’t a medication.
I hope this post provides an entry level look into antidepressants, where to start with them, and what to expect when taking them. If you enjoy reading this listen to my personal experience with the medications I took here. As always thanks so much for reading, stay crazy and we’ll see you on the next post!