Antidepressants Shouldn’t Be A Source Of Shame
Antidepressants always seem to be highly scrutinised. They tend to be labelled as ‘quick fixes’, by people who don’t know any better. Of course, they’re not quick fixes — it can take up to 8 weeks for them to have a noticeable effect on you. And the criticism doesn’t just stop there — they’re also condemned for having too many side effects and making people too dependent on them. The stigma around antidepressants has made many people afraid to use them. And those who do use them are often reluctant to admit it. If this stigma has made you feel scared or ashamed, here are some reasons why you shouldn’t be.
More People Use Them Than You May Think
Since no one talks about using antidepressants, it can feel like you’re the only one who takes them. But you’d be surprised at how many of us need them at different points in our lives. One survey found that over 1 in 4 participants suffered from poor mental health, and 81% of these people took, or currently take antidepressants to improve their mental health.
Furthermore, 4 million people in England are long-term users of antidepressants. Knowing that you’re not alone in taking them should bring you comfort. Yes, the stigma surrounding them can be challenging to deal with, and it may make you reluctant to carry on with your medication. But you’re in the same boat as 17% of the adult population in the UK. Not only does this show that you shouldn’t fear the stigma of antidepressants, but it also shows that they can work.
Antidepressants Are Effective
It’s true that antidepressants don’t work for everybody — no medication does. But the belief that antidepressants don’t work at all is entirely false. Many believe that they are simply ‘happy pills’ which boost your mood and allow you to avoid dealing with your mental health issues. But this is far from the truth. Rather than boosting your mood, they stabilise it; this means that although you may not get the same highs, you also won’t feel the same lows either.
Many studies have found antidepressants to be highly effective. One major study in 2018 found that the drugs are highly effective, and researchers even claimed that they should be prescribed to more people. Antidepressants aren’t just effective, but they’re an absolute necessity for some of us. They allow people to survive. And the great thing about them is the fact that we don’t need to rely on just them to get better. We can use antidepressants in conjunction with other treatments, such as CBT. So, if you’re taking antidepressants and you don’t see the point, remember that they can work if you give them enough time. You could also consider using them alongside other treatments if your doctor recommends it.
The Side Effects Aren’t as Bad as People Say
You’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories about antidepressants. Some people claim that they’ll turn you into a ‘zombie’. Or, maybe you’ve been told that they’ll kill your sex drive and make you put on weight. Of course, antidepressants do have some side effects which will affect users to varying degrees. This is the case with all forms of medication.
But for some reason, the side effects associated with antidepressants tend to be depicted as extreme and harmful. In reality, many of these side effects are exaggerated. For example, some pills may cause weight gain — but this is not always the case, and it certainly isn’t it extreme as you may think. If weight gain does occur, it is usually minimal, and your weight will often go back to how it was over time.
Even side effects which do seem extreme initially tend to ease as your body gets used to its new medication, and many of these symptoms disappear altogether over time. And as for the belief that antidepressants will change your personality and turn you into a ‘zombie’, this is simply not true. If you find that your antidepressants are numbing your emotions, this means that you’re on the wrong medication or the wrong dose. Your doctor will most likely advise you to alter your dosage, rather than tell you to give up altogether.
We’re Finally Beginning to Shake off the Stigma
There is still a significant stigma surrounding antidepressants, both inside and outside of medicine. But the nation’s attitude towards mental health as a whole has significantly improved over the last few years. One survey shows that people are far less likely to discriminate against people with mental health problems than they once were. We’re also more open about our mental health issues than we ever have been. This honesty is crucial in tackling mental health stigma. So let’s extend this openness and honesty to our experience with antidepressants, and tackle this stigma head-on. After all, antidepressants are so not a big deal.
Where To Go For Help
If you’re struggling with your anti-depressants, or you think you’ll benefit from them and want to learn more, you may not know where to turn. But there is help out there for you. With any health problem, mental or physical, your GP should always be your first port of call. They’re the one who knows the most about the medical side of things. They’ll likely have plenty of experience with antidepressants too, whether it’s prescribing them, dealing with the side effects or changing the dosage. If you struggle to be fully open with your GP, or you feel they are not fully acknowledging your concerns, don’t be afraid to find a new doctor or even a new practice. Your health must always come first.
It’s vital that you see your GP, but support is available from other sources too. Mental health charity Mind has a section of their website dedicated to anti-depressants, where you can find out more about what to expect when you start taking the pills, and how to go about changing them. You can also use their online community Side by Side to discuss antidepressants with others who are in the same boat. And if you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help by calling Samaritans at 116 123. There’ll always be someone nat the other end of the phone ready to give you the support that you need.
Written by Siobhan Kelly
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