5 Common Misconceptions about Antidepressants

by Aktive Learning on February 25, 2014

By Dr. BL Lim (guest contributor)

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 misconceptions remain.

Misconception #1 – I will become reliant on antidepressants and be addicted

This is one of the main concerns that my patients have when they have to be started on an antidepressant medication. It is important to realize 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.

Misconception #2 – My condition will become worse than when it started if I stop the medication

 finally started taking my anti-depressant again
(photo: Chelsea Gomez)

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

Misconception #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 of these side effects arise, you must inform your doctor who will switch you to another medication.

Misconception #4 – My brain will be affected by the medications!

 We are depressed today
(photo: Jessica Mullen)

Sometimes patients worry that they will be “changed” by the medications and their brain will become different. Antidepressants normalize 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.

Misconception #5 – I’ll have to take medications forever!

Many patients are afraid that once they are on medications, they cannot come off it. The 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 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.

By Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist in private practice from Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, Gleneagles Medical Centre. Via HealthMatters.sg, a Singapore Health and Fitness blog that aims to help you lose weight, keep fit, and live healthy. Click here to get our free guide “Eat Your Way to Health – Secrets of a Healthy Diet”

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