Do you hate your antidepressant meds?
I think almost anyone who lives with depression has been there at some point. I know I have. Right now, I’m limited in what I can take because I’m pregnant. And honestly, not a fan of my current antidepressant meds. I would give a kidney for more energy.
So, if you clicked this because you hate your meds, you aren’t alone. I wanted to have an honest conversation about this issue because it affects so many people. And lots of times, it seems like people are scared to talk about it.
If you hate your medication, you’re “anti-meds,” and a “pill shamer.”
If you LoVe It, you’re a pill popper, and why don’t you try some more natural solutions?
It’s so hard to win in the mental health world. That’s why I wanted to share my thoughts, and also encourage those in both camps. What we need right now is to be supportive and kind, and encourage less divisiveness.
In this post, I’m going to talk about what antidepressant meds are actually supposed to do, the light and dark side of them, and share some thoughts about each side of the coin.
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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety and depression for many years, who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis, call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.
What these medications are designed to do
What the heck are antidepressant meds? Why do doctors prescribe them in the first place?
Usually, if you are having something more than “mild depression,” they offer it as an option to help rebalance your brain chemistry. (As someone with absolutely no medical training whatsoever, I would call mild depression an acute period of sadness after a break up or job loss, or some similar circumstance.)
If your sad feelings persist, and especially if they don’t have any kind of discernible trigger, your doctor might suggest you try Zoloft. Or Lexapro. Or Cymbalta. So, what are these funny sounding words?
No, they aren’t villains on “Doctor Who.” They’re pills you can take to help your brain stabilize itself. According to WebMD, “Antidepressants work by balancing chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters that affect mood and emotions.”
How antidepressant meds can help
Four of the most important neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and norepinephrine. Another set of weird words, but they really help the brain feel its best! Unfortunately, for people who live with depression, they can be hard to come by naturally. Let’s talk about them a bit, and how antidepressant meds can help those who have trouble making them.
Basically, serotonin helps with a lot of your essential functions, like sleep, appetite, and mood. We all need to eat, sleep, and be happy, right? That’s why it’s very important that your brain is able to create serotonin.
Dopamine is basically happy juice. According to the article I just linked above, it “controls many functions, including behavior, emotion, and cognition.” It works in conjunction with what you might call the Pleasure Center of your brain.
This is one I honestly didn’t know much about until I did the research for this post, but it’s pretty interesting. Apparently, it is in your brain and spinal cord (ideally) and is important for brain development, learning, and memory, according to the same article.
This neurotransmitter has to do a lot with our body’s stress levels. You know how when you’re feeling really anxious, you get that thing where your heart is racing and you want to jump out of your skin? That’s our body’s “fight or flight” response, and norepinephrine has a lot to do with that.
What does that have to do with antidepressant meds?
Well, when a person has depression, their brain needs help regulating the production of these key neurotransmitters. Sometimes, the brain does not produce enough. Sometimes, maybe in the case of norepinephrine, it can overproduce (giving the body a “fight or flight” response when it’s not really warranted). Or, it might not be able to regulate dopamine correctly in the sense that it can signal a pleasure/reward response at the wrong time.
Whatever the case, our depressed brains are broken. That’s not your fault, and it shouldn’t produce a sense of shame. But it’s true. When our child’s toy stops working the way it’s supposed to, we say it’s broken. And that’s a little bit like having depression. That’s why we take antidepressants. To help get our brain back to a more emotionally healthy state.But it is never something to be ashamed about. Some people are born with broken hearts, or broken stomachs, and require frequent medical attention. If they don't feel any sense of shame, then neither should we. Share on Twitter
How they can make you feel worse
All that being said, many people don’t like taking antidepressant meds. They might help in a lot of important ways, but like with all prescription medication, there are side effects to be aware of.
Here are some of the common side effects of many antidepressant meds.
Side effects of SSRIs/SNRIs
Examples: Celexa, Lexapro, Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac
- feeling agitated, shaky or anxious
- feeling and being sick
- indigestion and stomach aches
- diarrhea or constipation
- loss of appetite
- not sleeping well (insomnia), or feeling very sleepy
- low sex drive
- difficulties achieving orgasm during sex or masturbation
- in men, difficulties obtaining or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)
(These are directly quoted from the NHS website.)
Side effects of Tricyclic antidepressants
Some examples are: amitriptyline, amoxapine, desipramine (Norpramin), doxepin, according to Healthline
- dry mouth
- slight blurring of vision
- problems passing urine
- weight gain
- excessive sweating (especially at night)
- heart rhythm problems, such as noticeable palpitations or a fast heartbeat (tachycardia)
(Again, directly quoted from the NHS article linked above.)
What others have to say about antidepressant meds
I wanted to share some positive experiences people have had with antidepressant meds to counteract my section about the negative side effects. Check it out!
I have suffered from anxiety and depression since I was a teen. It wasn’t until about 3 or 4 years ago when it got much worse that I decided to seek help. Things were so bad that I would struggle to get out of bed every morning, struggle through work, and then come home to bed. I didn’t have the energy to do anything. My friends were worried because I never wanted to do anything and had a bad habit of eating my feelings.
So I decided to speak with my doctor. She suggested trying an antidepressant called Sertraline. It helped so much and so quickly my friends thought I was a different person. I have been much happier and full of life since starting on it. Don’t get me wrong, I still have anxiety and depression. I still have bad days, but they don’t seem to last as long and don’t come quite as often as they used to.The blogger behind Jam on Everything
I am schizophrenic for last more than 18 years, and on medications I get attacks much severe weekly, daily. My schizophrenia has become now like my part of life, went to many psychiatrist, and take every night Zenoxa 150 Neocalm plus Mozep 2. Medications have helped a little.Anonymous Twitter follower
I’m on Lexapro, and it’s helped me tremendously with my depression and anxiety. It took years to get both to a point that can be considered “manageable”Tonya from Vivacious Bibliophile
Why more natural methods might be worth a try
For those whose lives are made way more miserable by antidepressant meds, it might be worth trying more natural methods to manage your depression symptoms.
This comes with a massive disclaimer. This is really important, so don’t bypass this.
- Never quit your antidepressant meds cold turkey. It should always be done with the guidance of the doctor who prescribed them.
- Never take actual medical advice from a blog that is not written by a medical professional. Much of what I write about is anecdotal based on my own experiences, or experiences of people I know. Doesn’t make it bad advice, but you still need to consult your doctor.
- There isn’t like a war between “meds people” and “non-meds people.” Or at least, there shouldn’t be. Different things work for different people because all brains are not created from the same mold.
That being said, let’s dive into some natural methods I have tried in the past and found helpful.
If you’re finding that your antidepressant meds aren’t totally cutting it, try working in some regular physical activity. Too many people still see this as woo advice, but it’s not. Since this article focuses primarily on depression, let’s look at the ways exercise can benefit someone who is feeling depressed. I found this super interesting quote chunk that is worth sharing, so give this a read!
“Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects, of course. As one example, a recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.”
So, you don’t have to go out and train for a marathon. A little bit really does help. Because science! It should go without saying that exercise is not going to cure your depression. There is no known cure. I’m gonna go ahead and drop my favorite, oft-quoted tidbit from “The Princess Bride” here.
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Fixing my sleep habits
Having wonky sleep can really mess you up. There’s a reason most parents put their kids to bed at the same time each night. As adults, we need to be better about doing that for ourselves! There are massive benefits to having a regular bedtime routine.
The National Institutes of Health says (as cited in that article just above) poor sleep can lead to:
- Memory loss
- Heart issues
- High blood pressure, etc.
You get the most benefits from, not just getting enough sleep, but getting it at consistent times.
I’ve been working on this for a while now, not falling asleep at 6pm, just because I’m tired. I try to power through until closer to 8pm for the sake of normalcy. Before I would wake up at like 2am and find it hard to go back to sleep. It’s a work in progress, but it’s much better in the long run to be consistent.
Another alternative to (or complement to) antidepressant meds is journaling. This is one of my favorites! As a blogger, you could probably guess I love writing. I have ever since I was in 3rd grade and wrote my first short story. There is a lot of power in the written word, and it can be very cathartic to get them onto paper.
If you need some ideas on what to write about you can download these journal prompts to get started! Click the image to print them.
I have a few helpful posts about journaling here: 21 awesome journaling ideas for positive thinking and Why journaling for mental health is something you need to try ASAP
To get started with journaling, grab a journal using this picture link!
One of the most common alternatives to antidepressant meds is supplements. You can order them from Amazon, or get them in pretty much every grocery store. This is another instance of me sharing an anecdote that shouldn’t be a substitute for you getting medical advice from your own doctor, BUT.
When I was having a lot of issues with fatigue and anxiety, I had tons of bloodwork done, and I was found to be deficient in Vitamin D and Iron. Those might not be the causes of your mood issues, but it’s at least worth looking into. If your doctor recommends them, you can grab some here.
Other forms of self care
Self care is one of the most important components of mental health! It might not be able to replace antidepressant meds entirely, but it really helps you restore a sense of calm to your life.Part of the problem a lot of people have with self care is they aren't going about it the right way. They think, "Oh, I did a face mask like someone recommended, and it didn't help. Therefore, self care doesn't work." This is not only not… Share on twitter
It’s important to do things that are specific to YOU and your needs. You can read more about my thoughts on this here in my post about what self care really is.
The great thing about the alternative methods I discussed above is that they don’t have the side effects that come along with prescription antidepressant meds. That’s why it is always at least worth considering. Many, many people find these to be life changing tools!
Here’s the tea
Antidepressant meds really help a lot of people. Millions of people around the world swear by them as a way to manage their mood issues, and that is amazing. Science has really advanced in the ways it can help us deal with chronic illnesses, and you should never be ashamed of needing a little extra help.
But antidepressant meds might not be for every single person, and THAT IS OKAY. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily pill shamers or anything. It just means their body’s chemistry does not find itself compatible with them.
Whatever choice you make, discuss it thoroughly with your doctor first. And don’t rush into it. Really give it proper thought.
Do you take antidepressant meds? What has been your experience with them? I would love to hear about it in the comments! Also, let me know if you have found success with more natural methods.
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