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5 Common Misconceptions about Antidepressants

5 Common Misconceptions about Antidepressants

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I’ll be honest, the first time I heard about someone close to me taking antidepressants, I responded with an uninformed misconception. While I was empathetic towards the situation, having dealt with depression and anxiety issues myself, I assumed taking the medication was a quick-fix solution. You had to be tough in this world, right? Taking medication was a sign of weakness. Boy, was I judgmental back then. At least I am honest.

It was not until properly educating myself and understanding how the brain works did I finally understand the purpose and usefulness of antidepressants. Now, my perspective has completely transformed. I realize that often our experiences in life alter our brain chemistry on a psychological level. Our brains can function in a way that is completely out of our control. The brain adapts to traumatic experiences by changing the way it responds to stimuli.

Therefore, depression can be a combination of experiences and chemical imbalances that need addressing. Sometimes this imbalance can be remedied through mindfulness meditation and therapy alone, other times; medication is the ideal option.

When you first learn about antidepressants, you may be a bit skeptical. All over the news, we hear about big pharma and how addictive prescriptions drugs can be. We also learn how in many cases, doctors over prescribe medications. While this is true in some cases, the truth is that antidepressants are typically safe and effective for the general population.

The right antidepressants can even help those recovering from addiction. The consensus on using antidepressants in sobriety is controversial, but it remains a case by case solution. Researchers Yale University found that the combination of therapy with the use of antidepressants produced the most effective treatment solution.

Furthermore, here are five common misconceptions about antidepressants:

Misconception #1 –Antidepressants are Addictive: Once I start, I will be hooked.

One of the main concerns of taking antidepressants is the potential for addiction. However, antidepressants take weeks, even months to take effect. That is what makes them drastically different from other addictive drugs out there such as opiates. Antidepressants do not cause tolerance or cravings like street drugs do.  While antidepressants do have a withdrawal effect, this can be overcome by weaning off the medications slowly.  Antidepressants do not have the euphoric effects other drugs do. Of course, some will try to abuse the drugs by taking them in high doses. However that is simply not how antidepressants work.

Antidepressants work over time, accumulating in the brain. They don’t produce immediate effects. It can take over a month before an antidepressant starts working. Abuse can occur when a person tries to mix alcohol with antidepressants as this produces a magnified impaired state. However, antidepressants alone are not a problem if taken under the recommendation of a physician.

Misconception #2 – My depression will worsen once I am off the antidepressants

Antidepressants treat your depression and also prevent future episodes from happening.  When you stop taking antidepressants, you will be vulnerable to depression or anxiety again. Therefore, it is possible that your depression and anxiety will come back. However, antidepressants are not the cause of the depression nor does going off them worsen the symptoms you already had.

Misconception #3 – My sex drive will die on antidepressants.

Yes, it might. Maybe…

Yes, it is possible that taking antidepressants will have sexual side effects; however this is not always the case. The most common side effect is the inability to achieve an orgasm. Still, being depressed can have just as much of a negative effect on your libido. Often, depression and anxiety inhibit a person from sexual activity altogether. If you find you have a low sex drive due to your medication, talk you your doctor about either changing your antidepressants or changing the dosage.

Misconception #4 – Antidepressants are a quick fix and don’t solve the problem.

As we mentioned earlier, antidepressants can take weeks, even months to take effect, so it is not a “quick fix.” While antidepressants can help with your mood, the drugs are most effective when taken as part of a full treatment program that includes therapy. Therapy can help address any underlying environmental issues that contribute to depression. You may also want to pursue yoga or meditation which is useful in helping with depression.

Misconception #5 – My brain will be changed forever!

Some fear their brains will be forever changed by taking antidepressants. Antidepressants work by normalizing the neurotransmitters in your brain that are out of balance so that you feel healthy again. Over the years, antidepressants have been formulated in a way in which they do not alter your brain as much as they did in the past. Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are found to have the least amount of side effects, so psychiatrists tend to prescribe these first. Remember,  antidepressants are not a happy button. They help by making you cope better with feelings so you can make better choices in life. It is up to you to find true happiness.

While antidepressants are not for everyone, they are a real option that helpsmany people in the recovery process cope with severe depression. Still, other solutions should be explored first. Overall, it is important to know how antidepressants work, so you do not make assumptions when someone you know takes them to help them cope. We all are different, and education is key to reducing stigmas. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Author: Shernide Delva

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