The Pros and Cons of Being on Antidepressants

More than 300 million people worldwide are affected by some form of depression, according to the World Health Organization. But due to the stigma of mental disorders, as well as a lack of resources, more than half of those 300 million do not receive treatment. With suicide being the second leading cause of death for 15 to 29-year-olds, depression has become a major danger, and it is a condition that so often goes undetected and untreated.

The only good thing about the shockingly high number of people affected by depression is that it means that although it may seem like it right now, you are not alone. About 30% of college students have reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function,” according to the American College Health Association.

There is a wide array of treatment options, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and talk therapy. But the most “controversial” of the depression treatment options is medication. Many are resistant to the idea of using medication because they fear that it will turn them into a robot, or that they have to work through their emotions without that kind of help. But medication is a great option for people who have been struggling with depression to a point where it begins to be extremely detrimental to their daily life. Used in combination with therapy, it can be a great way to re-energize and re-motivate your brain.

I want to talk about the pros and cons of going on antidepressants (SSRIs), as there can be ups and downs along the way. But this article is purely based on personal experience, and it is not meant to convince someone to start or stop their medication. Everyone’s depression is different, and so it should be treated differently, and with the help of a doctor. Hopefully, this personal experience will give some insight as to what it is like to be on antidepressants, as it can be difficult to explain to someone who has never used them.

Pro: Having More Energy

Having more energy to do what you need and want to do is one of the best benefits of being on an SSRI. In my experience, energy was the first thing to return after just a few weeks on the medication. It was so much easier to get out of bed in the morning, and I found that I had more interest in seeing my friends and interacting with people. Just knowing that I had the help of the medication allowed me to do more. Even after six months, I still have more energy than I did before.

Con: Side Effects

Side effects of antidepressants can be really difficult to deal with, especially when you are already dealing with the depression itself. Headaches and nausea were consistent for me for the first month or so, but after that everything has been normal. The main side effect that I experience now is having crazy dreams every night. Usually, they are not scary, but it can be confusing to wake up and have to figure out what really happened. For the most part, though, the dreams are entertaining and they don’t take away from the quality of your sleep!

Pro: The Bad Days Aren’t As Bad

This is the main reason why people go on antidepressants in the first place, but it is difficult to explain the feeling to someone else. In a cycle of depression, thoughts usually go from bad to worse, and suddenly everything seems like it is falling apart. On the medication, one bad thing happening to you does not mean that your whole day or life is ruined. You are better able to remove yourself from the situation and assess it from a rational viewpoint. Of course, it is still possible to have a bad day, but the bad days do not make you want to lie in bed and avoid people and responsibilities.

Con: Feeling Flat

Feeling emotionally flat at times has definitely been the worst part about being on antidepressants. It can be hard to find the right dosage, so sometimes if it is too high, it can create a feeling of indifference and complete neutrality. It can be kind of scary to feel neutral toward everything, whether good or bad things are happening. It can also be strange because that neutral feeling almost mimics the feeling of emptiness that occurs in a depressive phase. Luckily, this feeling can be easily fixed with the help of a doctor who can adjust the dosage.

Pro: Reducing Anxiety

A lot of people who suffer from a depressive disorder also suffer from anxiety. Antidepressants can help with anxiety the same way they help with depression— by lessening the effect of extreme and irrational emotions. I have found that the medication has definitely helped with anxiety, as well as the management of stress on a day-to-day basis.

Con: Finding the Right Medication

This is more of an annoyance than a deterrent, but it can take a while to find the right medication or dosage. Many people experience difficult side effects and have to switch to another medication, and it can kind of be a guessing game to figure out exactly what works. But once you do find the right combination, it is just a matter of maintaining the right balance and taking your medication every day.

Overall, I have found that medication has the right treatment for my depression, and the pros have outweighed the cons. For me, it seemed like the right choice because I would use medication for any other type of illness, so depression was no different. Of course, every person has a different experience, and for many, therapy alone can be sufficient. The important thing is to recognize that using medication to treat depression is not as scary as it seems, and it does not mean that you are crazy or weak.

If you have any symptoms of depression or are feeling anxious, do not hesitate to call your school’s behavioral health center. BU’s behavioral medicine number is 617-353- 3569. It is never wrong to prioritize your mental health.


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