9 Things You Didn’t Know About Being on Antidepressants
The Debrief: Take them and be happy, right? Wrong.
There are so many misconceptions about being on antidepressants (i.e. you’ll be more interested in chocolate than sex and always be as bouncy as a leprechaun). We shed some light on the world of antidepressants with 9 things that you most probably didn’t know about taking antidepressants.
1. You feel worse before feeling better when first starting antidepressants
It’s common (in fact, it’s kind of a given) that when first starting treatment with antidepressants, you’ll feel worse for around a couple of weeks before starting to feel better. Doctors will usually start you off on a low dose to help reduce the intensity of the side effects and it may take a while before you find the right dose for you.
Some of the initial side effects that have been reported (ranging from mild to severe) are:
• feeling lethargic/sleepy
• constant dizziness
• vivid dreams
• dry mouth/bad taste in the mouth
• memory problems
• hearing 'whooshing' when moving eyes from side to side
There are also psychological side effects to deal with, such as:
• feeling detached
• feeling numb
• being in a dream-like state
• feeling controlled
• feeling zombie-like
• feeling overly emotional
• feeling labelled “mentally ill”
The initial side effects can be so bad that it may be difficult to work productively and your doctor might even give you a sick note or suggest you reduce work hours for a few weeks, or stay with friends or family till the body gets used to the antidepressants. It’s important to note that everyone responds differently and what one person can’t hack might be a complete breeze for someone else.
2. Antidepressants list: There are a bajillion different kinds of antidepressants.
Antidepressants fall under categories. The most common are:
• SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
• SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)
• TCAs (tricyclic or tetracyclic antidepressants)
• MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
• 5-HT2 or 5-HT3 receptor antagonists
• noradrenergic antagonist
• dopamine reuptake blocker
There are several antidepressants available under each category. Some of the most common ones are: -
• Effexor XR
Each drug is known for having different side effects but your doctor will fully interview you and find the best antidepressants to suit you and your lifestyle (for instance, if you have trouble sleeping, you won’t be given one which is known to perk you up).
3. Finding the right antidepressants for you can take a looooonnnnggg time
Four out of 10 people who take antidepressants improve with the first one they try. The other six usually faceplant and need to try a second and perhaps even a third before finding the right treatment for them. This is a pain in the arse because of the whole 'starting' process (see point 1 above).
4. Antidepressants side effects: You may have them, like, all the time.
Although not everyone will get them, antidepressants are known to cause the following side effects from time to time:
• weight gain
• increased appetite
• blurred vision
• dry mouth
• loss of sex drive
• erectile dysfunction/decreased orgasm
Different medicines react differently to different people and the above side effects are not guaranteed. Taking antidepressants is a risk and a matter of weighing out the pros and cons. People who are hideously depressed and can’t stand their life have to think about if they prefer to live that way, or decide to change for the better and, in the meantime, risk gaining a few pounds or not having as many orgasms.
5. If you forget your antidepressants, you’re screwed; quitting cold-turkey could send you to the hospital.
Antidepressants are not addictive, but let’s say that they are really good at reminding you when you need to take them. Not in a 'where are my yummy pills, I want them now,' kind of way, but rather, an 'I’m about to throw up what I had in primary school and my head feels like it’s spinning around a la Emily Rose' way. Quitting antidepressants can induce all of the above symptoms at the same time which can suck some serious ass.
6. Coming off antidepressants is a bitch and a half.
In order to not spiral out of control and send yourself to the hospital when deciding to come off antidepressants, a meticulous and tenacious weaning-off plan is in order. Firstly, you’ll need to reduce your dosage every 4-6 weeks until you are on the least possible dosage. This could take anywhere from 3-6 months. Then you would take one pill every other day, and then every 2-3 days, then every 4-5 days, etc., etc., which could take a further 2-4 months at best. It’s a process and a half.
7. Antidepressants and alcohol: You’re not really supposed to drink while on Antidepressants.
If you like a drink, this part will probably suck the most. It’s not like being on antibiotics where you can count down the days till you can get your face in a cocktail. Antidepressants are a long-term treatment during which drinking alcohol is not advised. Alcohol can make depression worse, increase the side effects of antidepressants, counteract the benefits of the medicine, wear down the treatment’s efficacy and, in effect, elongate the treatment time.
8. Antidepressants don’t make you happy
Another rumour about antidepressants is that they give you a daily dose of happy. While they don’t do that exactly, they do make you see clearer, gain some perspective (not sweat the small stuff) and provide a welcome break from the relentless and oppressive darkness of depression. Antidepressants restore the balance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, the lack of which are believed to cause depression.
9. If you’re on antidepressants, people think you’re either weak or a complete nut job.
It can be hard for people to admit taking antidepressants because of the outdated common belief that people who take them are emotionally weak and have an inability to deal with their problems. These misinformed people don’t believe that depression is a real illness and definitely don’t believe that taking antidepressants helps. Instead of being given a standing ovation (did you read the part about how difficult it is to even start them?), more often than not it’s perceived as a sign of weakness.
'When depression interferes with your ability to function normally, seeking treatment is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of good self-care.' - WebMD
Despite the difficulties that come with taking antidepressants, taking the quality of your life into your own hands and not letting the demon that is depression eat you alive is definitely worth a trophy. You, my friend, are a champ. Kudos.
Picture: Alexey Kuzma
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