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22 'Secrets' of People Who Take Antidepressants

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Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

When you’re first prescribed antidepressants, the doctor often rattles off a list of both positive and negative side effects. You take all this information in, hoping the positives will outweigh the negatives and your depression symptoms will subside. The tricky part is, you don’t know what, when or if one particular medicine will work. Adding to the confusion, few people talk about their experiences with antidepressants because of the stigma associated with medicine as a form of treatment for mental illness.

That is why we asked our mental health community to share some “secrets” — the parts of taking antidepressants they don’t often talk about. If you’re concerned about trying antidepressants, you’re definitely not alone, and you deserve to know the realities of others’ experiences. Take a look at the responses below, and don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with a medical professional you trust.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Despite knowing they help, I sometimes still have a hard time making myself take them. Also, if [I] miss a dose or two, I can tell — not necessarily in the emotional realm but the physical.” — Jackie R.

2. “I’m constantly itchy and have dry mouth. When I start my cycle, mixing all those hormones with all my medications is the scariest type of PMS I’ve ever had. If I don’t eat, my stomach feels like it’s digesting itself. I feel like I’m drowning in my head sometimes, like I can’t feel anything. Sometimes I wish I could just stop taking them, but I know if I do, my mental state will rapidly spiral downward. I guess we endure because I imagine nothing can be worse than my mind, so why not be a lab rat for a while? It can’t be worse than how I feel already.” — Shelby S.

3. “Today, I’m an open book. Previously, there were a lot of taboos. Side effects like low libido, dry mouth, constipation, the feeling that I needed to take them to be accepted, picking them up in the pharmacy was horribly embarrassing, talking to my kids about needing them, and having to tell the nurses at my general practitioner when they ask, ‘Do you take any medications currently?’ Twenty years later, and too many SSRI changes to count, I’m now able to discuss it openly.” — Bill M.

4. “Taking antidepressants can cause extreme constipation in some individuals, particularly those who already have issues with their gastrointestinal system. No one told me that when I didn’t go to the bathroom for 11 days that it was a problem due to the new antidepressant I was taking. I didn’t find out until I was in the emergency room. I don’t talk about this often with others because although I have no trouble discussing it, the majority of people don’t want to hear about that kind of thing.” — Leah O.

5. “One of the stranger early side effects of my medication [was] frequent urination. It happened to me, and it was insane. I woke up four or five times a night to go pee. It only lasted a couple of weeks though, like the other side effects. My medicine made me drowsy and made me clench my jaw and grind my teeth in my sleep. These side effects went away and it was totally worth the two weeks for how good I feel now.” — Olivia L.

6. “They don’t always work every day. Sometimes I get really tired of taking them. Juggling a handful of pills gets old fast.” — Jo M.

7. “I don’t talk about how uncomfortable it feels being more regulated, especially after living unregulated for so long. I’ve been on a good mix of medications for my disorder for over a year now, and despite the many years and struggles of finally finding the right mix, I don’t feel right. It’s difficult to explain but I would liken it almost to a dysphoria because of the way my brain is hardwired with my disorder and the interaction of the chemicals I’m introducing. The reaction is like pushing two magnets together that aren’t supposed to. I don’t even talk about this with others struggling because stigma is rife within the affected community. This is actually the first time I’ve spoken about it outside of therapy.” — Hollie H.

8. “Having to change medications is one of the most disrupting events I have to go through. Sometimes the meds I’m on don’t work like they used to so I have to switch to something else. The emotional roller coaster that ensues is horrible and it’s difficult to keep going with the transition. I often want to give up on the medication before it’s settled into my system” — Caron H.

9. “It is a difficult choice to decide to stay on them when they leave you numb but functioning, rather than semi-to-non functional with erratic emotions.” — Jenifer W.

10. “Even if I miss one dose it can completely throw me off and I’ll be a completely different person. I wish I didn’t have to take them. All I want is to be ‘normal,’ but my brain won’t let me unless I do counseling and take medicine. When I think about it, it sometimes makes me feel like a failure.” — Valerie R.

11. “The only thing I’ve noticed is the jitters but that could be due to the fact that I actually have energy again. Sitting all day is boring! It used to be my favorite pastime. But I talk about it all: the good, the bad. It needs to be talked about. Needing medication is nothing to be ashamed of. If anything it shows strength.” — Katie M.

12. “I don’t talk about taking them. It’s so difficult to share because of the stigmatism. I am tired of explaining why I need them, how I was not misdiagnosed, and how I have tried alternatives. Yes, I can function, work, and drive — don’t label me. People need to start believing not everything works the same for everyone.” — Erika D.

13. “They don’t let you get refills sometimes on time because they’re too booked or some other problem, even though it’s highly recommended that you don’t stop taking them suddenly because it’s harmful, and you suffer from withdrawals and more damage until they actually refill your medicine weeks later.” — Kayden M.

14. “I don’t talk about them at all. I’ve heard my family mention multiple times that I shouldn’t be taking medication and could fight this on my own if I had more positive thoughts/outlooks. I also don’t talk about how they make me feel manic and exhausted. When I do feel better, I don’t mention going off them, with my doctor’s approval of course, because I don’t want people to think that me not taking my medication will make me ‘crazy.’” — Kate C.

15. “[I experienced] drastic short-term memory loss… And uncontrollable limb tremors.” — Caley K.

16. “[It’s bad] when I miss a dose. I’m 99 percent compliant but for various reasons have run out… twice over the last year and within days I have an upset stomach, I don’t sleep well, my head is fuzzy, and I feel like I’m getting the flu.” — Randi D.

17. “I don’t usually cry, but the medicine I’m on makes me sensitive to everything. Especially if I miss a day. It’s horrible. And I can’t forget about constant coughing. Side effects are so random and out of nowhere for different people.” — Yessi S.

18. “I am more than thankful for my antidepressant. It makes me feel much better and I have more motivation every day. The changes in my emotions were dramatic. And most people don’t understand that part.” — Kayla B.

19. “It can make you feel ‘normal’ to the point where you stop taking them because you feel all better, so you take yourself off and then feel fine for months and then go back to being depressed.” — Olivia P.

20. “The nausea is awful and I sometimes get hot flashes, like I’m about to be sick. My medication is supposed to up my energy and mood, but it makes me very tense like all my nerves are on edge.” — Courtney S.

21. “The first two weeks while increasing the dosage made me extremely suicidal, but after that time period I felt like a new person.” — Brianna W.

22. “They’re not the magic cure that some people believe they are. You’ve still got to put the work in to feel better.” — Katie W.

What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Thinkstock image via Top Photo Corporation.

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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