What Exactly Are Antidepressants?
Antidepressants are a type of medicine that may aid in the relief of depression symptoms, social anxiety disorder symptoms, anxiety disorder symptoms in general, as well as other mental health ailments. They work by supporting the balance of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our mood and feelings of well-being.
If you have never taken antidepressants, you may have many questions about how they work: Are they addictive? Do they make you happy? Are they just a quick fix to a permanent problem? Do they change your personality? Once someone starts them, do they ever really get off them?
These are all valid questions.
Let’s answer each question one at a time.
1. Are They Addictive?
The short answer is no. Antidepressants do not arouse cravings. That said, the body can become dependent on antidepressants in that the central nervous system grows accustomed to their presence. For this reason, people should never simply quit taking their antidepressant prescription. Dosages should be reduced gradually and then stopped, always under the supervision of a medical professional.
2. Are Antidepressants “Happy Pills”?
Antidepressants do not create euphoria, like ecstasy or methamphetamine. What they do is help to decrease the severity of the symptoms that depressed children, teenagers, or adults may experience.
3. Are these Medications Just a Quick Fix for Depression?
Again, no. As Dr. Serani explains in a Psychology Today article, nothing about antidepressants is fast-acting. Most of the time, they take anywhere from four to six weeks to have a full therapeutic effect. They certainly aren’t designed to cure depression on their own. Treatment for depression needs to be holistic, involving medicine, counseling, and social support. Antidepressants won’t simply ‘cure it all,’ and some people are able to manage their depression without medication.
4. Do They Change Our Personalities?
We can rest assured that the answer is no. The only thing that antidepressants will change is the severity of depression symptoms, not someone’s unique personality. Sometimes, if a person has been very down for a long while, this blue state can seem like their fixed personality. But there’s no evidence to suggest that sadness is a personality trait.
5. Once We Start Taking Antidepressants, Can We Ever Stop Taking Them?
Many people are able to taper off of their antidepressants when they experience remission from their depression. Normally, after anywhere from one to two years, a person can wean off of antidepressants. It’s extremely important to talk with your doctor about your desire to stop taking the medication and to follow their recommendations. Quitting immediately can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, and more.
What’s the Takeaway, Then?
Treatment for depression is not the same for everyone. Talk with your doctor or healthcare professional about possible avenues for treatment. If you are in recovery from a substance use disorder, it’s especially important that you recognize signs of depression and actively seek solutions.
Many times people choose to self-medicate depression with alcohol or drugs. Substances may take off the edge in the short term, but they may eventually worsen the depression and lead to addiction. If you are struggling to find your way out of an addictive lifestyle, or if you find yourself in danger of relapse, we can help. Contact us today.