The Depressing Fact About Antidepressants

By Kaitlyn Benacquisto
News Reporter

Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed class of drugs in America, and have a long list of side effects that come with them.

The most common antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs mainly affect the amount of serotonin, while is the chemical that regulates mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire, that your brain produces. This medication is preferable over other types of depression medication because it is safer and has fewer side effects than others.

Student Anthony Broussard, who is currently on antidepressants, said that the side effects are less than desirable.

“While I’m on the medication, I feel almost like a zombie,” said Broussard. “It’s very difficult to process emotions.”

He also described the side effects he faces when he forgets to take his medication: increased irritability, getting easily depressed, and feelings of shock. These side effects and more are common when a patient forgets to take their medication, or decides to take themselves off of it.

Matthew Stanford, CEO of the Hope and Healing Center & Institute, and adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine said that the longer you are on antidepressants, the harder it is to get off of them.

“It becomes more and more difficult with long-term use to manage the illness,” said Stanford, “because your body is fighting against the effects of the medication, so if the medication is making you have more serotonin activity, your body is cutting that back to try to make it less and be a more balanced level.”

However, being on medication short-term for some users isn’t so easy. Once people get on antidepressants and discover the benefits, Dr. Stanford says they are often fearful they will not be able to live without them.

“You can become kind of dependent on them, in the sense of ‘I’m not going to be able to function unless I have my medicine,'” said Stanford. “Whether that medicine is having an effect or not, you may convince yourself that you desperately need it.” 

Counselor Jennifer Matthews, who holds her masters degree in counseling and psychology, along with Stanford, said that the solution to this dependency is participating in therapy along with medication.

“Taking your pills will help you feel better, but it’s not really giving you any coping skills. It just creates stability, so that you can start to make changes,” said Matthews. “A lot of what happens when you need to take an antidepressant is that you need to take that just to get back to zero… It really should be accompanied by therapy. The idea is not just to be able to function, but to be learn skills to be able to cope, so that there’s a possibility where you cannot take medication and you’ll have the coping skills to be able to cope.” 

Therapy can get patients to a place where they may no longer need to be on medication. However, many people are reluctant to see therapists says Matthews.

“Because of the way our culture is built, it’s like perform, push through, get stuff done, show up, you don’t need to take a break, and so we push ourselves,” Matthews said. “There are a large amount of people who could benefit from therapy, but we just don’t give ourselves permission to ask for help early on, until we are broken.” 

The fact that antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed medication in America could say a lot about our society. The benefits are there, but so are the side effects, no matter what type of medication you are on. If you are one of millions of Americans who are on an antidepressant but not seeking therapy, you can go to Psychology Today to find a therapist near you.

Featured image by Kaitlyn Benacquisto.

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