Taking Antidepressants: Myths and Truths to Consider

A large number of you balk at the idea of taking antidepressants. This is understandable, since in America there's a backlash underway against conventional medicine.

A large number of you balk at the idea of taking antidepressants. This is understandable, since in America there's a backlash underway against conventional medicine, and against antidepressant medications in particular. I have a few things to say about it.

I am not telling you what to take or not take. I am just pointing out the worries many depressed people have and responding to them. Do whatever you think is best. I am simply trying to keep people informed.

  • The most important thing is, if your doctor prescribes antidepressant medication for you, there is a reason why he or she did so. Consider that before you decide you don't want to take it. Go ahead and ask why!
  • Don't refuse to take antidepressants because of their stigma. The immense non-depressed public doesn't understand this illness, and understands antidepressants still less. So don't let them shame you out of it; they don't know what they're talking about.
  • Don't be afraid of the side-effects of antidepressants. Sure, you may have some, but make no assumptions. If you assume you'll have them, then you will. If they are a problem, the antidepressant medication can be reduced or dropped. No problem.
  • It's also true that your medication may not work, or may take a long time (2 months even) to start working. You have no way of knowing though whether or not any given medication will wind up being the thing which cures you. So why not give it a shot?
  • Some of you tell me that you never take pills, for any reason. No one that I know in real life, however, has never taken any medication. Even taking Tylenol for a headache is "medication," and I doubt you would refuse it if you had a headache and were offered some. Be honest with yourself. Most people's fear of taking pills is irrational and probably a symptom of your illness.
  • Taking antidepressants can improve your level of depression. Antidepressant medications are helpful in the treatment of depression.You can try St. John's Wort or another herbal supplement for depression if you want, but I recommend that you first try whatever your doctor suggests. Herbal supplements are largely clinically unproven as treatments for depression, or any mental illness, so in my opinion you should resort to them later rather than sooner. If you are determined to take it though, make sure your doctor knows.
  • Yes, doctors do sometimes recommend herbal and/or dietary supplements for depression to their patients in place of conventional medicines. They are usually open-minded people who will look for the best possible treatment for you, no matter what that is, and will not just limit themselves to pharmaceuticals.
  • No, doctors do not just dole out prescriptions to get you out of their office. If you really believe that your doctor would give you inappropriate treatment just to be rid of you, then you really ought to go to another doctor, since basic trust isn't present. Doctors (not just psychiatrists) take depression very seriously and are probably not trying to hustle you out the door.
  • Antidepressants are not "happy pills," nor are they tranquilizers. They will not cloud your mind or turn you into a giggling fool or any other such nonsense. They help you only in very subtle ways. Chances are you will not notice any difference in yourself. Someone else is more likely to observe that your mood has lifted. So don't expect antidepressants to turn you into a zombie or junkie. It just won't happen.
  • I understand that some of you don't "buy" that depression and brain chemistry is linked, and are convinced, therefore, that medications will not help. Still, the cold hard fact is that depression and brain chemistry are linked. Clinical studies have proven time and again that antidepressants help people. They are among the most-scrutinized of all drug classes. You have no rational reason to assume that none of them will help. Again, this is the depression itself discouraging you from getting treatment. Don't let it win.
  • Your trepidation about taking pills is a part of your depression, the part that wants to hold you back and get you to refuse all treatment. Don't let it win. Consider that antidepressants may help you. What rational reason could you have for not doing something that might help you feel better?

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 30). Taking Antidepressants: Myths and Truths to Consider, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Last Updated: October 21, 2017

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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