22 Things People Don't Tell You About Starting Antidepressants
Editor’s note: This piece is based on the experience of individuals. Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.
For many, the decision to start antidepressants can be a difficult and scary one, and not knowing how an antidepressant will affect you coupled with the stigma surrounding psychiatric medication certainly doesn’t help.
While finding the right antidepressant might seem like a daunting process, when prescribed by a doctor, antidepressants can be wonderful tools for managing symptoms of mental illness. That being said, we know there isn’t a lot of information out there to help people prepare for starting antidepressants for the first time. We asked our Mighty community to tell us what no one tells you about starting antidepressants.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “A long time of trial and error… until you find the medication that’s working for, not against you.” — Anki L.
2. “It won’t necessarily work right away. Sometimes it takes some time to kick in. As hard as it can be, stick with it, be patient and don’t give up hope. Because even if this isn’t the one which will eventually work, there is something out there that will.” — Jen D.
3. “People might assume you missed a dose because you still experience negative emotions like everyone else while on them. If you feel numb, like a zombie or generally feel worse after taking them for the recommended time due to side effects, please, please please tell your doctor… Also, don’t just quit them regardless of whether or not you feel like they’re helping you. You have to safely taper off of them. Please don’t give up!” — Nicole C.
4. “My advice is if you are thinking about starting or [are] currently on an antidepressant, think about or research the withdrawal effects because there [may] be a time when you do not need to use them anymore.” — Amanda H.
5. “Withdrawal effects. The first time I forgot to take my medication for a few days, I was so afraid of the ‘brain zap’ feeling I got and how debilitating that split-second feeling was.” — Brenna M.
6. “Weight gain. Being tired all of the time but not being able to sleep. Being numb. Going through tons of different kinds of antidepressants to find the right one that works.” — Alex R.
7. “You are your own guinea pig. It may take several tries to get the right medication and dose. Also, don’t be afraid to call your doctor if your new medication makes you feel ‘off.’ Never stop medication without a doctor’s approval first. Some medication has intense withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop it, so your doctor should advise you how to wean yourself off it if need be.” — Emily D.
8. “Not every day will be easy. Stuff will still trigger me.” — Tamara Lynne P.
9. “Antidepressants help with mood, but self-care needs to still be practiced to battle depression.” — Laura R.
10. “They react differently with each person.” — Gloria H.
11. “Make a schedule so you don’t forget to take it at the same time every day. Forgetting just once can mean a wave of side effects and withdrawal symptoms.” — Emily F.
12. “Feeling content can be uncomfortable at first. Especially if you’ve gotten used to living in the chaos. Also, medication alone is not always the answer. Therapy and learning about self-care is critical.” — Pamela S.
13. “They aren’t an immediate ‘cure-all.’ It takes a lot of trial and error… to become stable. You have to still do other stuff to deal with the depression. It takes discipline. There is no magic pill. That said, I feel like being on them is of benefit to myself and those around me.” — Lilith G.
14. “You might get side effects that aren’t expected, like diarrhea or constipation. No one ever talks about the gross parts.” — Megan M.
15. “Do you know they can increase your chances of getting cavities because of the dry/cotton mouth?” — Joanna C.
16. “Do your best to never miss a dose. And be sure to confirm your dosage on every appointment and refill.” — Amanda W.
17. “For me it was the physiological changes. I didn’t realize how much my body hurt until the pain went away. My metabolism increased so I lost weight even though I was enjoying food again and eating more. My psychologist did warn me I might get nauseated.” — Shanta K.
18. “Weight gain, feeling tired and in turn, non-stop yawning. Those side effects have now passed. The only side effect I still experience every day is the excessive sweating. I feel so much warmer than I ever have before. Just walking up the stairs starts me off.” — Alice H.
19. “It matters what time you take them during the day. There should be way more ongoing support for people taking a new medication.” Brooke H.
20. “No one told me about the crap I would get from people around me. I felt better when I started taking them, but everyone around me got scared. I was happy the meds were helping, but many people were pushing me to get off of them or making comments about how dangerous they were. Other people were more afraid of them than I was and I was the one taking them.” — Julia A.
21. “They sometimes make you sick. You could end up with symptoms of a cold, diarrhea or nausea.” — Abigail M.
22. “Keeping in touch with your doctor regularly while finding medication that works best for you is key, but it’s also important to note they don’t fix everything. Therapy, counseling and taking care of yourself are all necessary steps in the process, because medication is not a ‘cure-all.’” — Kathryn D.