Deciding whether or not to take antidepressants can (and ought to be) a decision you make only after careful consideration. There are many ideas, opinions, and beliefs floating around out there about antidepressants, and knowing what information to trust can be confusing, frustrating, and even frightening.
On top of that, antidepressants are one of those polarizing topics – one that many people come down on either side of. But, in actual fact, the entire topic is one that exists in the middle; it’s not all good and it’s not all bad.
It’s a grey area, not unlike the one you might feel trapped in.
But if you’re at a crossroads, not sure which way to go – but knowing undoubtedly that you need to make a choice – here are 12 things to consider.
Should You Take Antidepressants? 12 Things to Consider
- Be mindful of who you turn to for advice.
Of all decisions you’ll make in your life, this is one that not everyone will be able to help you with. Be mindful that a lot of people have personal issues with taking antidepressants, and they may not be able to offer objective advice. Be picky about who you speak with about what you’re going through. Choose people who you feel comfortable around, and whose opinions you trust.
- Trust in your doctor – but not if your gut tells you otherwise.
We all have different levels of trust when it comes to doctors. Speaking from experience, for the most part I believe trusting your doctor is a safe bet. That being said, always pay attention to what your gut is telling you. If something feels wrong, examine what that feeling might be about. Talk to your doctor about your feelings. But trust that, at the end of the day, your doctor wants you to feel better.
- Consider your doctor’s motivations.
Keep in mind that doctors play an important role to the public. It is their job to keep us relatively happy and healthy so that we can continue to live and work and pay our taxes and not be a burden on the social system. As such, the decisions they make are in context of the big picture. On the other hand, your feelings or illness are probably consuming your individual world at the moment. You’re not really thinking about the big picture, you’re in the here and now and you want to feel better. This doesn’t mean the two of you can’t arrive at a solution, it just means that you might not always be speaking the same language. Be mindful of that.
- Understand that overcoming depression is a long and arduous journey.
The idea that all we need to do is “snap out of” our depression, or try to “laugh it off” is one you’ll likely encounter many different times throughout your journey to overcome depression. While it might seem like this idea is one that will come at you from other people, in fact in most cases it will come from you – directed at yourself. We aren’t predisposed to thinking in longer-terms; we are persistently living in the here and now. Overcoming depression isn’t something that can occur in the here and now; it happens little by little over months, years, and decades.
- Yes, antidepressants are a band-aid – but that’s all they were meant to be in the first place.
This is a common argument against taking antidepressants – that they are just a band-aid solution. The irony of this metaphor is that, in fact, it’s entirely true. Just as we place a band-aid over a scraped knee to protect it as it heals, so too are antidepressants meant to alleviate our symptoms just enough so that we can focus on getting better over a period of time. Antidepressants are not a cure – they were never designed to be that way.
- Be suspicious when words like normal, natural, and should enter into your thoughts about antidepressants.
Another common argument against antidepressants is that nature didn’t intend for us to take them, or that it isn’t normal that we feel depressed (we should just snap out of it!). These words have ambiguous meaning, and are often steeped in morality and black-and-white thinking. The best bet is to ignore arguments that contain black-and-white words like normal, natural, and should – there isn’t really much truth to be found in them.
- Yes, there will be side effects.
Although antidepressants have come a long way in terms of fewer side effects, they haven’t quite got the science down pat yet. This is probably the hardest part about taking them. While so much of yourself gets freed, other parts of you will be stifled. But again, this isn’t a black-and-white deal-breaker. There are options for different medications or “cocktails” that can help minimize side effects. Bottom-line is, though, that you’ll more than likely experience them.
- No, antidepressants will not change you into another person (the effects are, for the most part, hardly noticeable).
You won’t suddenly wake up one morning and not know who you are. You probably won’t even wake up one morning and realize that the antidepressants are all of a sudden working. The effects of these medicines are very slow, and somewhat subtle. It will mostly be noticeable in retrospect, by looking back over the past several months and realizing that, Hey, I feel better than I normally do.
- Yes, antidepressants will dull you, but maybe that’s okay for a little while until you feel better.
You might not get as excited about things as you used to. You might feel content with being moderate. But you know what, maybe that’s okay for a while. Maybe it’s what you need to help you start reorganizing yourself into someone who can get excited and charged without the crash that can come after that.
- Your depression is not you.
You are something that lives underneath your depression, and the medication will help to bring you out by alleviating it. There is nothing about being depressed that is who you truly are as a person. The depression is a heavy haze that weighs down on and masks your true self (from other people, and from yourself). Alleviating that depression will only help to release you.
- Don’t read online forums (anecdotal evidence).
There is really nothing constructive you can learn from reading online forums. People there tend to write about their experiences in absolute statements, when the reality is everyone’s experience of antidepressants is different. Ultimately, yours in the only experience that really matters.
- Stopping antidepressants is not easy – but it’s doable.
Deciding to start antidepressants doesn’t mean you’ll need to take them forever. There may come a time down the road when you’re ready to come off them. Just as the decision to start taking antidepressants isn’t one you should take lightly, going off them is an even bigger one. There will be withdrawal effects that last for months and months. But eventually they will pass.
While depression is indeed a long and arduous journey, the fact that you’ve read to the end of this blog should tell you something very important. It may seem like a giant decision is ahead of you (should I take them, or should I not?) – but consider that you’ve already made a decision:
You’ve decided that you want something better for yourself.
With all the unknowns floating around you right now, hold onto that fact. Stay grounded in it. Use it as the ledge you’ll climb up onto when you’re confused or scared. From there, everything will always be clearer.