Help – I’m Depressed but I’m Scared of Taking Antidepressants
I remember, before trying medication, I was terrified of it. I had the same misconceptions that many people do:
- Medication is for weak people
- Antidepressants are just “happy drugs” designed for people who can’t handle life
- Medication will ruin your brain
- Doctors give out antidepressants like candy whether you need them or not
As it turns out, none of these things are true, but they sure seemed true at the time.
So I get fear of antidepressants and other medication. Psych medication is scary stuff.
But sometimes you have to face that fear in order to get better.
Antidepressants Don’t Work
There seems to be two fears among people who are considering antidepressants: antidepressants don’t do anything or antidepressants do too much. I understand both fears.
First of all, yes, antidepressants do work to treat depression, particularly moderate-to-severe depression. While many people will not be successfully treated by their first antidepressant the vast majority of people will be helped by a following antidepressant. So if the first one doesn’t work, don’t give up hope.
And as far as efficacy goes, there was a recent meta-analysis that indicates that antidepressants are about as effective as other medication used for internal medicine.
Antidepressants Harm You
I can understand this fear. Many people speak of psychiatric medication in very negative terms but it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, most people use psychiatric medication for a time, and then get off of it and never say a thing about it because they don’t want anyone to know. That is the common experience – nothing of great interest to report.
Because properly used, antidepressants can be effective with minimal side effects. Yes, some people are harder to treat than others and those patients who are harder to treat may require more medication and that ups the side effects, but most aren’t in that group. Many people can take one medication, in a normal dosage range, and get better.
And, to the best of my knowledge, there is no side effect of antidepressants that continues after you stop taking the drug. In other words, if a side effect develops with which you can’t live, you can always reduce the dose or get off the drug entirely.
[Update: one reader reminded me that there are additional risks, including mania, associated with treating people with bipolar disorder with antidepressants. Not all doctors agree on this but I have written about the controversy here. See about the dangers of misdiagnosis here.]
Black Box Warning
One commenter mentioned the black box warning on antidepressants and I wanted to briefly address it. A black box warning is the most strong warning that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can place on a product and they did so because there were reports of people, possibly, getting increased symptoms on antidepressants and reports of people taking their own lives. The FDA, rightly, did not want to wait for all the data to come in on this situation and so they placed a warning on all antidepressants.
I can say that some have found the data does not support the fact that there is an increased risk of suicide in adults when compared to those who have not been treated and their risk of suicide. That being said, antidepressants can cause side effects in people that may agitate them or worsen their condition and the final result may be suicide so it's important when starting antidepressants to be closely monitored by a healthcare professional.
(It's important to note this warning is especially important for those under the age of 18.)
All that being said, it still takes a leap of faith to try something new, especially something scary like putting a medication into your body, so it’s all about the pros and cons. Are the possible pros of taking the medication work the possible cons? How sick are you today? Have you tried other treatments? Are you in therapy? Have you attempted suicide? What will happen if you choose not to get treatment?
And one of the best ways I know to combat these worries is to have a doctor you trust with whom to discuss you fears. You absolutely have a right to be scared and it’s a reasonable thing to feel but sooner or later you’re going to have to make a decision and I would recommend that you let facts guide that decision and not fear.
[As an aside, regardless as to whether you feel antidepressants are for you, every person with depression should try therapy, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy, as that can help many people.]
Tracy, N. (2012, June 11). Help – I’m Depressed but I’m Scared of Taking Antidepressants, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/06/help-im-depressed-but-im-scared-to-take-antidepressants
Author: Natasha Tracy
You probably need some therapy, even if you have to pay it. Also, if you can, start walking and smiling and waving to passerbys.
I would like to get off the meds. I will do it slowly. If you doubt Zoloft, then I would get a second opinion.
Partiality due to side effects (esp the unknowns on blood clotting as I had two last year and am prone to them) and partially cause i don't know why.
Plus my abusive dad is bipolar, some of your guys comments scare the hall out of me.
My life is in a horrible place, I am in such a bad spot, waiting on disability having no family or friends.
Therapy is not possible as the state doc retired right after I finally got in it will take 6 months to find a replacement and the place locally I had home before would not take me as I have thier info to social security? ?
So until insurance switches in Feb have no choice and even then i have a hard time doing things from my past, codependent nature, abuse at the hands of a narcissist..
Help? I don't want to feel like this anymore but I'm so scared. Should I take it?
Thankyou for taking the time to read this.
It's quite detailed and may be slow going for some, but well worth reading it carefully. One of their bottom line conclusions is, quite simply, "Despite the pervasive belief regarding the effectiveness of antidepressants and cognitive therapy (CT) among physicians and society at large, STAR*D shows that antidepressants and CT fail to result in sustained positive effects for the majority of people who receive them."
Depression and other mental health disorders can be intensely disabling, more than those who don't suffer from them can imagine. Don't waste time and damage your physical and mental health with medications that fail to help the majority of individuals who take them.
You're right, I should have mentioned the black box warning. I suppose it feels like such common knowledge in my mind, my fingers just overlooked it. That's no excuse, however.
I will add an addendum to the article that mentions it.
A bereaved mom in New Zealand, who lost her son to SSRI-induced suicide, is spear-heading a movement to promote safer treatment methods. Her loss inspired her to found Community Action on Suicide Prevention and Research (CASPER).
There are many anecdotes about how helpful SSRIs have been for depressed folks. There are also many anecdotes about how SSRIs have destroyed lives and families. Readers here need a balanced persepective so that they can make an informed choice about whether or not to try these drugs.
In my response i was relating my personal experience of both anti-physcotics and Ad's.I couldn't say if there are permanent side effects as it could be the Ad's or it could be my condition but when i was on AD's i was told by all the medical people that stopping taking them(which was my only option) and not tapering them would lead to side effects(it said the same on the literature that came with them) and i had the not being able to eat due to constant nausea,then had night sweats,feelings of paranoia,diarrhea and vomiting for two weeks
I was lucky i had a friend who was studying to be a mental health nurse and he had access the uk "bible on drugs and he told me what would happen.
My experience was weird because i didn't "choose"(if thats the right word) to be ill but i did make a conscious decision to get better and fought to get CBT and with that i survived and actually prospered for about eight years.
Nowi live with hallucinations and blackouts,fear self loathing,guilt.
Its amazing in a country with a National health service that i paid into for 25 years even being suicidal i cant even get prescribed Ad's.
I agree with you, being properly diagnosed can be a challenge, particularly if you have bipolar disorder. When I wrote this, I never intended it to take into account incorrect diagnosis, but this is always a risk.
And yes, I can definitely see the art in it, and I don't mean that in a negative way - it just means that we're all different and experience mental illness differently so it can be difficult to pinpoint individual illnesses.
You have not said there are any side effects that are permanent for anything but antipsychotics - and I agree with you, there is a chance that antipsychotics _can_ cause a permanent side effect of a movement disorder. However, that is not what we're talking about - we're talking about antidepressants.
As for and "inability to eat" that isn't remotely true. Some people may find nausea is a side effect, but not being able to eat? That's _extremely_ uncommon, and yes, that would be a time when you would decrease the dose or get off the medication.
- Natasha Tracy
No side effects from antidepressants and you can just reduce the dose or stop taking them.Thats dangerously naive at best.If you have neuroses or moderate depression thats the case but then therapy is a much better treatment for that, you actually don't need the drugs and therapy will treat the causes especially CBT and not just the symptoms which medication can reduce.
My own experience is anti-psychotic drugs have massive side effects ie paralysis and eventually long term use will lead to death(okay it will take about 5 years but there you go.
With severe depression due to medication you get effects like inability to eat no matter how hungry you get and if you stop taking them is like going cold turkey,sweats vomiting diarrhea.YesAd work to get you to a point where therapy can help to sort your issues out if you really want to put in the work and it worked for me for eight years and i survived things that a lot of people who have never had a mental illness would have been broken by.
Plus you need to be Sherlock Holmes to find a doctor you can trust and even he couldn't find a psychiatrist that has any ideas apart from which drug they are paid to promote and have a total inability to understand that 5 years medical training will totally overwhelm the one year physc training.
Yes, some people find the diagnosis quite freeing. It's great you had such a positive experience.