Experiences of antidepressants

Antidepressants: Messages to others

People we talked to were keen to reassure other people with depression that using antidepressants wasn’t something to be ashamed about. Rachel’s view is that ‘it should be seen the same as if you break your wrist... as an illness that can be treated it doesn’t mean you grow another head... it doesn’t mean you’re stupid and it doesn’t mean you can’t make decisions’. Most of the people we spoke to felt that if your doctor suggested an antidepressant, you should give it serious consideration and not be afraid to give it a try or worry about what other people might think. Andrew’s advice was that it’s definitely worth thinking about ‘it’s not a bad thing at all... give it some thought but don’t feel that it’s a negative clutching at straws thing. I think it may feel like that but it’s not and it can help’. Stuart said you shouldn’t rely on it but think of it as ‘a bit like taking an aspirin, you know, it’s something that if you’re lucky will give you some relief from the symptoms, will help you feel better’. Even where people had themselves had difficult experiences or not found an antidepressant that had helped, they still advised others to think about it carefully, and not be discouraged by scare stories or others’ bad experiences. 
Clare said she would never advise someone to take one or not take one, but that each person is different and it’s a decision you should make together with your doctor. Catherine advised taking time to think about it if you weren’t sure. 
People said they would advise others to be proactive, ask questions and to find information from the doctor and other sources such as the pharmacist, the internet or talking to others Flora‘s advice was to find out as much as possible about the treatment the doctor has suggested. ‘Don’t just accept the first thing you’re given by the GP, look it up and find out more about the drug you’ve been offered’. Thomas said if you’re prescribed an antidepressant you should find out about possible side effects and how to cope with them, as well as to know what dose you are taking, and for how long you might need to take the antidepressant. Greg advised people to ‘do your own research’ and also stressed how important it was to get support from friends and family when you are taking medication, (see ‘Finding out more information about antidepressant medicines’). 
Some said that they felt that taking an antidepressant had changed their lives for the better, others felt that it may or not work, but their advice was that if you don’t try you won’t ever know if it could help or not. Stephen said he hadn’t realised how bad he’d been feeling until he felt the positive benefits of an antidepressant and thinks people should definitely consider it as an option, and listen to friends or family if they are telling you they think you would benefit from some help.
 
 A key message people wanted to pass on was that antidepressants may make a real difference to the way you feel, but it’s also important to be realistic and not expect them to solve everything. Tim had tried them but wasn’t sure how much they had helped .His advice was that ‘they may be of some help but they’re not going to solve a problem, whatever the problem may be’. Lucy X felt sure that taking an antidepressant had helped her but that ‘it should be alongside something that gets down to the root of the problem’. Taking up opportunities for other treatment such as therapy or counselling was also recommended. Many believed it had been the combination of both that had been the key to their own recovery. For some people, taking an antidepressant can begin to help them to start to feel better and more able to address other issues in their lives, and some said it was worth thinking about taking an antidepressant for a short while before starting a course of therapy or counselling. If there is a waiting list for therapy or counselling taking an antidepressant may help you to cope whilst you’re waiting, as well as possibly getting you in a frame of mind to talk, (see also ‘Talking therapies and antidepressants’). Tim said he would advise people to make sure their doctor tells them about all the options that are available to treat depression. Some people said doctors were sometimes too quick to ‘reach for the prescription pad’ and that you should ask yourself whether you feel you really need an antidepressant and not feel obliged to take one. If you’re just feeling a bit sad or unhappy, it may not be the answer for you. 
People we spoke to said that they would advise others who decided to try an antidepressant to ‘follow through’, give it time , not expect them to work immediately, and to realise that often initial side effects will wear off if you ‘stick with it’. Olivia Y advises people get past the six week mark and don’t give up at the start... because if you give up on them then you’re never going to know if it’s going to help’. 
Not everyone we spoke to had found that the first antidepressant that they tried had worked, indeed often people had tried several. Some described a long, sometimes fraught journey to eventually finding the right antidepressant, and some felt they had never had any benefit. The overall message that people were keen to stress was that it’s a very individual thing. Some said they wished they had realised that trying different antidepressants was an option as they had struggled on for too long taking something that hadn’t been effective, or they had stopped taking one without proper advice. Having a good relationship with the doctor can make all the difference, and many people stressed how important it was to ask questions and have reviews with the doctor. Sonia said she would recommend talking to the pharmacist about any questions or concerns about antidepressants, because they often know far more than the GP about individual medicines. 
It can be tempting for people to decide to stop taking an antidepressant when they are feeling better, but Sharon emphasised how important it was to be sure that you are well enough and to get advice ‘I think it's very difficult when you're on them to be confident about coming off them unless you're ready, unless you're well and you've got to have other stuff in place’. 
(See also ‘Talking therapies and antidepressants’, ‘Deciding to take an antidepressant’, ‘Expectations about taking antidepressants’ and ‘Reviewing antidepressant use’).

Last reviewed June 2016.
​Last updated June 2016.

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