If you’ve ever been depressed, you know how desperate a feeling it can be. You want to get out of the darkness and to feel like yourself again. You'd do anything to feel like yourself again. And in this case, antidepressants can feel like a godsend. Your doctor tells you that if you take these pills for long enough and at the correct dosage, you’ll finally be yourself again. The world will seem lighter, more beautiful again. You'll be happy! But what don’t they tell you? Plenty of things, apparently. Here are 21 things no one tells you about taking antidepressants.
1. There’s no magic pill for life.
As much as antidepressants can help, there’s no magic pill that will fix everything. Even if antidepressants do help improve your mood, keep in mind that you will also need to find and practice strategies and healthy coping mechanisms for setbacks and struggles in your future. For this reason, many people taking antidepressants choose to regularly see a counselor or therapist.
2. There’s no one-size-fits-all antidepressant.
Antidepressants work differently for everyone. Your mom may love Lexapro, while you may hate it. Just because one antidepressant works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you, and vice versa.
3. You may have to try a handful.
Because there’s no one-size-fits-all, you may have to try out a handful of different antidepressants until you find one, or a combination of a few, or something else entirely, that works for you and your depression. If this happens to you, understand that it's just part of the process. You will find something that works. Try to be patient and hang in there.
4. Antidepressants may make things worse.
This is extremely important to know: antidepressants can increase suicidal thoughts, aggression, and other issues in new patients, especially in the first few days or weeks. For some folks, these initial side effects go away. For others, they aren’t worth the risk. If you're having scary side effects or feeling worse on antidepressants, reach out to your doctor or to a family member or friend. You're supposed to be feeling better, not worse.
5. You may feel “zombie-like.”
While doctors will insist over and over again that this is a myth, it isn't. Sometimes, antidepressants can make you feel foggy or out of it. If you’re feeling less like yourself, you may be on the wrong antidepressant, or you may need a lower dose. Don’t be afraid of expressing this concern to your doctor. Antidepressants are supposed to make you feel better, not blurred around the edges.
6. You may feel exhausted.
Or sleepy, or fatigued, or worn-out. These are common side effects, especially if you're first beginning treatment or if you've upped your dose.
7. You may have digestive issues.
Nausea and constipation are two common side effects of many antidepressants. If you're having issues with digestion, make sure to tell your doctor.
8. You may have issues with sleeping.
Common side effects of many antidepressants include "sleep disturbances" like insomnia, sleepwalking, and nightmares.
9. Or you may have none at all.
That's the fun thing about side effects and playing the guinea pig game with antidepressants — you never know what you'll get. Don't let the idea of side effects scare you away from giving antidepressants a shot. If you think they may help or a doctor is recommending you give them a try, consider all of your options carefully. Remember: it isn't one-size-fits-all, even in terms of side effects.
10. You may have to “divorce” your doctor.
Doctors are humans, too, and not all of them are perfect or have your best interests in mind. If you and your doctor don’t agree on the proper treatment for you or your doctor just isn’t listening to you, you may have to “divorce” them. You should be able to trust your doctor and confide in them. If you find yours is recommending treatment or meds that don’t work for you, there’s nothing wrong with looking for a different doctor who will listen to you.
11. You'll have to check your meds list.
Antidepressants are serious medications, which means they may interact with other meds you take, even over-the-counter medicines. Make sure your doc is up to date on what you’re taking, even if it’s just for a cold.
12. You may have to stop drinking.
Alcohol can interact with antidepressants, often increasing the side effects of both. Alcohol is also, on its own, a known depressant, so it could counteract the positive benefits of taking antidepressants in the first place. Talk to your doctor about imbibing on antidepressants, and make sure you're being safe.
13. You might gain weight.
Increased appetite and weight gain are possible side effects of almost all antidepressants. An increase in exercise and a healthy diet may help counterbalance these side effects, though — and healthy habits can also help make you feel better!
14. You will still have hard days.
Even if you find an antidepressant that works for you, hard days will still come and go. Antidepressants are meant to generally lift your mood, but they aren’t happy pills. Normal human emotions like sadness, frustration, and anger are all still going to cycle through you, you’ll just hopefully be able to handle them better!
15. They may stop working.
And one day: poof. You may need to try another antidepressant, or up your therapy, or make some other adjustment. Depression can swoop back in, so communicate regularly with your doctor, and let them know if you're beginning to feel worse — despite antidepressants.
16. You may lose your libido.
Antidepressants are infamous for making sexy time go away, and the loss of libido is a legitimate concern if you’re considering taking them. Antidepressants can cause decreased sexual desire, decreased ability to orgasm, and erectile dysfunction. Lucky for you, though, this isn’t the case for all antidepressants.
17. You may be stigmatized.
There’s still a stigma that surrounds mental illness, and this doesn’t go away if you decide to take meds. Be prepared for people to ask a lot of questions and to say lots of ignorant things, like, “Are you off your meds?” and “Someone forgot to take her crazy pills!” on bad days. Be careful about who you share your diagnosis and medication information with — not everyone understands that you’re making a good decision to take care of your mental health rather than neglecting it.
18. You may not need antidepressants forever.
While doctors are prescribing antidepressants “for life” at increasing rates, depression isn’t a death sentence. Plenty of people take meds for months or years only to get off of them later. That’s perfectly okay.
19. ... But it’s fine if you do need antidepressants long term.
On the other hand, if you find that antidepressants make your life better and you don’t want to get off of them, plenty of people make long-term use of antidepressants work, too.
20. Getting off antidepressants can be extremely difficult.
Doctors love to talk about getting on antidepressants, but what they neglect to tell you about is how difficult it can be to get off of them. In order to safely get off antidepressants, you have to taper your dose slowly and carefully, and this could mean weeks or months of painful side effects, like brain zaps.
21. Taking antidepressants doesn’t make you a weaker or lesser human being.
There is nothing wrong with loving yourself enough to take medication for your depression. If antidepressants improve your quality of life, take them. Be well. Don’t let anyone tell you that depression is a weakness or personal defect. It’s a medical condition, one which can be treated with antidepressants and a number of other therapies and lifestyle changes.