Wednesday 10 April 2013

The Myths About Antidepressants

Antidepressants are the mainstay of treatment for clinical depression and anxiety disorders.  These medications are effective and safe for the general population. However, many remain skeptical about antidepressant treatment and many myths remains.

1. I will become reliant on antidepressants and be addicted.

This is one of the main concern that my patients have when they have to be started on an antidepressant medication. It is important to realise that unlike sleeping pills, it is not possible to be addicted to antidepressants. Antidepressants do not cause tolerance or cravings like street drugs do. The fact that there are no street values with antidepressants attest to the fact that they are not addictive. However, if a patient is on high doses of antidepressants for a long time, it is best for him or her to seek the advice of the psychiatrist and not stop medication abruptly as this can cause "discontinuation syndrome". Discontinuation syndrome can lead to physical discomfort and can be completely avoided by weaning off the medication slowly in a few weeks.

2. My condition will become worse that when it started if I stop the medications.

Your condition will not worsen or rebound simply because you stop your medication. Antidepressants treats your depression or anxiety and also protects you from future episodes. If you stop the medication, it is like you taking off your armour. You will be vulnerable to depression or anxiety again.

3. Antidepressants have terrible side effects.

Newer classes of antidepressants like SSRIs are currently the mainstay of treatment. Unlike older antidepressants, these newer medications are well tolerated. At times, side effects can still occur to the minority of people. Known side effects include weight gain, sedation and rarely sexual dysfunction. These side effects are reversible and if any these side effects arises, you must inform your doctor who will switch you to another medication.

4. My brain will be affected by the medications!

Sometimes patients worry that they will be "changed" by the medications and their brain will become different. Antidepressants normalises the neurotransmitters in your brain  and this in turn makes your mood normal again. Antidepressants are not "happy"pills. They help by making you cope better so that you can solve the problems you have in life and it is up to you to find new meaning and happiness.

5. I'll have to take medications forever!

Many patients are afraid that once they are on medications, they cannot come off it. Majority of patients will become better once they have been treated and will come off medications. Some patients who have multiple episodes of mood or anxiety problems and may decide to stay on the medications long term. Your doctor will discuss with you the pros and cons of taking medications and how long you will require them. Ultimately, you have the choice of whether to take medications and the choice to stop them.