• Emily Duffy

Antidepressants - yes or no?

The Science


Different types of antidepressants & how they work:

There are a few different types of antidepressants used and some of them have different functionalities for what they can treat.


The most commonly prescribed type is SSRI which is thought to help increase the amount of serotonin absorbed in the brain by blocking some reuptake nerves cells allowing the serotonin to travel to other cells.


A newer medication is SNRIs which work in a similar way to SSRIs but include blocking reuptake of norepinephrine alongside serotonin.


Additionally there is an uncommon drug under NDRIs, which is another reuptake inhibitor blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.


There are then less commonly prescribed medications due to their side effects such as triyclics and MAOIs.

Overview of antidepressants:

In short antidepressants look to work by boosting or prolonging the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that are believed to help with regulating moods.


Below there is a table taken from Mind which shows a comparison of all of the different drugs used:


Pros of taking antidepressants:

  • Helps to manage low moods and often anxiety as well

  • might help increase the sense of control over a diagnosis or 'label'

  • Can help with balancing out appetite and also sleeping routines if these were a struggle beforehand

  • You are able to stop taking these - with GP consultation - so are considered 'worth a try' by many GPs.


Cons of taking antidepressants:

  • Side effects - these can range from slight side effects to some quite serious side effects.

  • Taboo - even in 2020 there is still a stigma for taking antidepressants.

  • Some people may find that antidepressants have adverse effects on other medication they are taking.

  • Symptoms can get worse before better in the first 4-6 weeks whilst the medication settles into effect - with suicidal ideation being common report for young users.

  • It can be a case of trial and error with finding the medications that work for you which can take time and energy.

Alternatives to medication:

  • St Johns Wort - this is a herbal remedy that some people use to help manage their moods. Again there are things to weigh up with taking this alternative as this can still cause side effects and impact on medications already being taken, so it is recommended to still consult your GP before considering this alternative.

  • Talking therapy -

  • CBT is generally offered by the NHS and IAPT services in short term work. CBT looks to re-frame your thought processes and in turn impact positively on your actions and behaviours.

  • There are many other types of talking therapy available which you can find through many different types of mediums. The aim of all talking therapies is to equip the client with strategies and skills to cope with life transitions or situations.

  • Exercise - as cliché as this alternative is, there is substantial proof that exercise releases chemicals that can boost your mood. Aerobic exercise for around 20 minutes 3 times a week is generally advised but as with anything this can differ from person to person. The downside to this is when you are experiencing low moods you may experience lack of energy and motivation to even get out of bed let alone exercise and so this can be a difficult alternative.

  • Support Groups or networks - finding people you can talk to who are in your lives is a great way to boost your mood and feel valued. This can be support groups offered by charities allowing you to talk to multiple people about your experience or friends and family who you feel able to open up to.

So antidepressants yes or no?

Well, that really is down to you and how you are feeling. I was once told that there shouldn't be any shame in taking medication that helps you to live your life and cope with things that are going on.


The main points would be that if you were to take antidepressants that is your choice, but they do tend to only treat the symptoms therefore it is recommended to take them in combination with therapy or some form of emotional support to also 'treat' the cause.



Sources:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/improve-mental-wellbeing/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/antidepressants/alternatives-to-antidepressants/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antidepressants/alternatives/


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