You’re thinking about taking an antidepressant for your depression and anxiety. You go online to learn a few things and now you’re totally confused. “Come on, one site says they’re great, the other one says they’re poison.” Could you use a voice of reason?
If our situation is distressing enough to require medication, we’re foolish if we don’t participate in therapy.
So, here we go with a strong dose of antidepressant reality and some things to think about when it comes to starting or continuing to use an antidepressant. And then I’ll offer my humble opinion.
Perhaps you’ll find mine the voice of reason.
Whether we’re taking an antidepressant for anxiety, depression, smoking cessation, irritable bowel syndrome, whatever – they’re not magic pills.
It’s understandable that hope and hype would lead us to believe in magic. But we have to let go of unrealistic expectations and delusions. They only get in the way of choosing productive interventions – and the accompanying hard work.
Things to think about
Should you give antidepressants a go, or continue to use them? Well, here are some things to think about…
- Within the realm of the emotional and mental health disorders, antidepressants alone aren’t the best option. If our situation is distressing enough to require medication, we’re foolish if we don’t participate in therapy.
- It’s common knowledge that antidepressants alter the action of neurotransmitters involved in the mood and anxiety disorders. But science has no idea as to why that makes us feel better. Using antidepressants, then, is rather a blind, shotgun approach.
- Antidepressants have little, if any, impact on mild disorder presentations.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered that all antidepressants carry a Black Box Warning indicating they’re associated with an increased risk of suicidal thinking, feeling, and behavior in children and adolescents. A warning is also given for an increased risk of suicidal symptoms in young adults, ages 18-24.
- Troubling side effects may continue after cessation.
- Taking an antidepressant involves risk. But they could be very helpful. How do the scales tip?
- We have to ponder our goals and expectations. What are we trying to accomplish? How long are we willing to give them to work? What if they don’t?
- Are there other ways to achieve our goals? Have we tried therapy? Are we physically active? Do we need to work on a substance use issue? Is there a contributing medical condition that needs attention?
- When taking an antidepressant, there are alcohol, drug, supplements, food, and beverage interaction concerns – even required medical monitoring. Do we know what they are? Have we chatted with our doc? Are we willing to live with the restrictions?
- Once we begin an antidepressant regimen, we can’t suddenly stop. There could be emotional, mental, and physical consequences.
My humble opinion
In 1989, in the grasp of devastating panic attacks, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, and accompanying depression, I elected to take the tricyclic antidepressant imipramine (Tofranil). Within a couple of months, the quality of my life dramatically improved. You need to know I was also participating in therapy and worked very hard on reacquainting myself with the world.
Four years later I was feeling so good that I decided I didn’t need to take meds – so I stopped. Not long after, my symptoms returned. I immediately got with my psychiatrist who prescribed the SSRI paroxetine (Paxil), and in fairly short order I was feeling much more comfortable.
Some years later, I decided to switch to sertraline (Zoloft). And I still take it. That’s thirty-three years of antidepressant therapy, with counseling along the way.
Now, are my mood and anxiety symptoms totally gone? No. Do mood and anxiety symptoms interrupt my life? No. Had I not taken medication, where would I be today? I really don’t know – perhaps dead?
Oh, do I tolerate a few moderately “inconvenient” side effects? Yes. But that’s the price we pay for a strong upside.
In his book, On Not Leaving It to the Snake, theologian Harvey Cox wrote, “Not to decide is to decide.” There are always going to be conflicting opinions on most any subject. And so it is with antidepressant use. Some will say they’re miracle meds, while others will swear they’re poison.
If you’re thinking about using or continuing to use antidepressants, get active. Do your research, talk to people you trust, chat with your physician and therapist. When you’ve completed your work, make a decision and get after it.
For the record, I believe antidepressants can be highly effective – even lifesaving. But I also believe they won’t work for some users. Unfortunately, it can be a crapshoot. That said, I think antidepressants are worth a try.
Totally up to you
Believe me, I know how devastating the mood and anxiety disorders can be. And antidepressants can be enticing. Just be sure to do your research, think things over, and be careful with your expectations.
“Should I give ’em a go?” It’s totally up to you.
Hey, all sorts of information on the mood and anxiety disorders are available here on Chipur. Just review the titles.
Bill White is not a physician and is providing the contents of this article for information purposes only, not to serve as a recommendation. Contact your physician with questions and for advice.