Posted by: jedwardswright | May 4, 2010

To Med, or Not to Med: Part 2

hand with pillsThis is the continuation of a blog called, not surprisingly,  To Med, or Not to Med: Part 1,  so if you feel lost,  check that one out first.

3)     My family/friends/spouse tells me to just get over it/cheer up/quit feeling sorry for myself/stop being negative, etc.

Although public attitudes about depression, and other mental health conditions, have improved incredibly over the past century, the stigma persists. Even well-meaning people have preconceived notions and biases.

Clinical depression is not an attitude problem, a character flaw, a personal weakness, or a lack of spiritual depth. It can’t be overcome solely by effort, determination, unselfishness, thinking positively, or getting closer to God, though any or all of those things may help us to cope with our symptoms.

There is now scientific and objective medical proof that clinical depression, also known as major depression, is caused by a chemical imbalance in our brains. There is nothing to be ashamed of, to apologize for, or to attack ourselves over after all. We have a medical condition.

Sources and Resources

Shouldn’t I be able to snap out of it? Video –Mayo Clinic

4)     I worry about putting drugs in my body. What about side effects? How do I know that antidepressants won’t do me long-term harm in some way?

Antidepressants, like any other medication, can, and often do produce side effects, so this is an understandable and valid concern. Common side effects that I often hear about include weight gain, lack of sexual desire, and drowsiness.

First of all, educate yourself. If your doctor recommends a particular medication, check out both what medical professionals have written, and what Jane Average on the web thinks as well. With the latter, keep in mind that reactions to meds vary a lot, and that the majority opinion is worth more than any one individual post.

Next, consider how much you trust your doctor to diagnose and prescribe when it comes to depression. Maybe you have a great doc who you would trust with your life (and I hope so, because isn’t that what we are all doing?), but know this: most family physicians receive very little training in the area of mental health. This is why I strongly recommend that you consult with a psychiatrist when you are deciding whether or not to take medication for depression.

Don’t freak out about the idea of seeing a “shrink.” Psychiatrists are merely doctors with a specialty, just like the dermatologist you saw when you had a bad case of zits in high school.  Would you expect your regular doc to send you for heart surgery without having a cardiologist give your ticker a listen? Of course not! This is absolutely the same thing.

Remember, if you do start taking an antidepressant, or any other prescribed medication, you are under no obligation to keep taking it if you find the side effects unacceptable. Seek out the prescribing doctor’s advice on how quickly, or more likely slowly, to discontinue though. As I noted in Part 1, coming off of an antidepressant too fast is what gives these meds a bad name, so be smart and don’t go off cold turkey!

In researching the long-term effects of antidepressants, I found it difficult to find authoritative sources. I found a lot of speculation and even the occasional dissertation, but I think that the honest answer is that no one knows for sure. Most antidepressants (and other drugs) haven’t been around long enough to be absolutely sure of potential problems down the road.

I realize that I may have just validated your worst fears, but keep in mind that we don’t know the long-term effects of many chemicals we ingest daily, and that this may simply be an inevitable reality of modern life. The FDA in the United States and the drug screening programs in other countries probably protect us from the worst problems, and other than that, there are no absolute guarantees. However, are you really sure how your daily cup of coffee or soda will impact your body twenty years from now either? Life is full of small risks, but somehow we keep moving ahead anyway.

What we do know is that over 33,000 people die through suicide every year. Depression has can be a terminal illness, so when weighing the risks versus the potential benefits of taking antidepressant medications, keep that in mind.

Sources and Resources

Obviously, I am a huge fan of! I also like a lot as well. Both are reliable sources on medical matter of all kinds.

Information on medications of all kinds and supplements too!

Choosing an antidepressant

Dealing with the side effects of antidepressants

Antidepressants and gaining weight

Antidepressants and sexual side effects

Statistics on suicide in the United States

5) I think I should be able to handle this without medication.

Most people, when told that they had Type 1 diabetes, and their blood sugar was way too high, would agree to take insulin in a heartbeat, yet so many of us balk at the idea of taking antidepressants. Why?

For one thing, the dangers of untreated diabetes are well-known, and quite easy to see. I once knew a man who had multiple amputations because of diabetes, and it was a sobering experience to watch him wheel into church on Sunday mornings. It was also a terrible thing to attend his funeral a short time later. Yet I have also seen the devastation that the suicide of a depressed person has on family and friends. Depression is also a serious business.

Though we have come a long way, there is still a stigma when it comes to mental health conditions, and that, I think, is the real reason we resist the idea of taking pills for a problem that society tells us is “all in your head.” We don’t want to admit to ourselves, never mind anybody else, that depression is beating us up black and blue, so we live in silent misery rather than take a chance on treatment.  For most of us who suffer from depression, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Maybe antidepressants aren’t the answer for you. There are no guarantees when it comes to mental health conditions, and there is such a thing as having “treatment resistant” depression. What I do know for sure, is that antidepressants have not only saved my life, but made it worth living, which is why I recommend that you give them a chance to do the same for you.

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