The Unhappy Side of Anti-Depressants
More and more people are taking anti-depressant medication every day. While a doctor may give you a prescription for anti-depressants, he may not explain the negative side effects that you can suffer from as a result of taking them. The negative side effects can affect your day-to-day living almost as much as being depressed.
Most anti-depressant medications act on a part of the brain that controls serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can have an affect your mood, for either good or bad. The most common anti-depressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Other anti-depressants interact with neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine or dopamine.
Some of the better-known anti-depressants are:
Negative Side Effects
Anti-depressants usually do what they are intended to, and offer relief to the patient. However anti-depressants often take three weeks or more to take full effect. In the meantime, a patient may have experienced enough side effects that they decide the treatment is not for them.
If a patient stops taking an anti-depressant suddenly, then they are also subject to withdrawal symptoms, which can be worse than the drug’s side effects. Some common side effects can be:
- Dry mouth
- Decreased libido
- Weight gain
- Diarrhea or constipation
Why People Stop Taking an Anti-Depressant
People stop taking anti-depressant medication for different reasons. SSRIs don’t always work for someone of mild depression, while others who have been on anti-depressants for a long time may simply become immune to the medication. When it is no longer working, a patient obviously sees no reason to continue anti-depressant treatment. Still others will suffer from one or more of the side effects mentioned above, sometimes to such an extreme that it is not worth the benefits the medicine can provide.
One reason that a patient should see a doctor immediately about taking them off an anti-depressant is if they begin to have suicidal thoughts and behavior. It is crucial to identify the symptoms of this side effect as soon as possible. Things to look for in someone who might be having suicidal thoughts include:
- Worsening depression
- Development of anxiety
- Feelings of restlessness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Unusual anger
- Acting on dangerous impulses
- Extreme hyperactivity
- Unusual changes in behavior
and of course, the verbal expression of suicidal thoughts.
Withdrawal After Stopping
When patients stop taking their medication without consulting their doctors about the proper way to taper off of their medicine, they may then experience withdrawal symptoms. Going off of a medication requires that the body readapt to its prior state, and stopping abruptly can result in some physiologic withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Extreme agitation
- Returning depression
- Mood swings
- Depression, mood swings
- Flu-like symptoms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle spasms
- Irritability and aggression
An Alternative to Medication
However anti-depressants may help, they cannot teach anybody how to change their thinking so that they can improve, and sustain, a positive self-esteem and self-worth. Talk therapy, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is known to help alleviate depression. A CBT therapist will try to reverse the negative thinking that can contribute to a patient’s depression. In this way, a patient can see the behaviors that are causing depression and work with a therapist to recognize their specific triggers and ways to avoid them.
Anti-depressants are often prescribed when a doctor thinks the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks. However, they affect every patient differently and what works for one patient may give another terrible side effects. When considering taking anti-depressants, it is important to educate yourself about the negatives of taking the drug, as well as the positives, before making a decision.