5 Things to Think About if You’re Considering Antidepressants

When it comes to anxiety and depression, there are different options to take when it comes to treatment. Something that could be worth a try is antidepressant medication, even though that might not be an easy decision to make. If you’re considering going on antidepressants, which can be used to treat a variety of mental illnesses other than depression as well, here are five things to think about, both while you’re making up your mind and if you do decide to go ahead with them. Make sure to talk to your doctor about it to inform your decision.

1. Know that mental illness itself might be stopping you

If you’re having a hard time deciding whether or not antidepressants--or any form of treatment for depression--is right for you, it could be due to depression itself. Marriage and Family Therapist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer says that depression often holds people back from seeking help for themselves. “The nature of the depression is that it tells us not to take actions to take care of ourselves,” Dr. Hokemeyer says. “This is typical of people who suffer from depression who refused to go on medication. They just don't feel like it's worth their effort.” Depression can hold you back in a lot of ways, and a major way it can do that is by convincing them that treatments just aren’t worth it. Know that help is out there, and that doctors are always ready to talk to you about possible remedies. Start by talking to your doctor about how you’re feeling and seeing about any possible next steps to take. Opening up to friends or family members about your depression can help you get the support you need in order to feel confident about seeking out help.

2. Try going to therapy as well

If you do decide to take antidepressants, try going to therapy at the same time. “If someone has a diagnosis of depression, the best route is to undergo both psychotherapy and antidepressant management,” Florida psychiatrist Dr. Padam Bhatia says. “If a patient undergoes only medication management or only therapy, they should understand that their results may not be as good as both together.” However, if therapy isn’t something that’s manageable at the moment because of other financial or time commitments, it isn’t 100 percent necessary to do both therapy and medication. “Some patients may not be able to tolerate or be available for therapy, and so medication is their only option for alleviation of symptoms,” says Dr. Bhatia. But if antidepressants are something you’re uncomfortable with, therapy without medication is totally doable, too. Keep in mind that it probably won’t be as useful as using both therapy and antidepressants together, Dr. Bhatia says.

Related: Depression in College and How to Deal 

3. Take the time to have a serious conversation with your doctor

There are a lot of different antidepressants available. Many are used to treat other mental illnesses like anxiety disorders as well. Each one has different side effects, and it’s important to talk to your doctor about the benefits and side effects of different kinds of medications in order to figure out which one will work the best for you. If you have any questions at all, ask--but try to steer clear of internet chatrooms and forums! Those can be full of scary stories and possible misdiagnoses. “Many times, psychiatrists will rush to provide a medication without discussing the downsides, so take your time during the appointment and make sure that all your questions are answered.  After all, this may be a medication that you are prescribed for years,” Dr. Bhatia says. On top of being mindful about which medication to take, people looking to take antidepressants should also make sure that they’ve been diagnosed accurately. If there’s been a misdiagnoses, it’s possible that antidepressants aren’t going to help much at all. Dr. Bhatia says, “The most important point that I can drive home is developing a rapport with a psychiatrist prior to the prescription of any medication as well as make sure that there is an accurate diagnosis.  Without these, medications will be much less effective and likely cause more side effects.” Choosing a therapist who’s right for you is also important, so make sure you’re comfortable with and confident about the person giving you your diagnosis.

4. Be patient--they don’t work immediately

It can be frustrating to wait for anything, but taking antidepressants and feeling like nothing is getting better can be especially taxing. If you’re on antidepressants and don’t feel like everything gets better instantly, don’t sweat it! Most antidepressant medications can take up to eight weeks for their effects to be felt. “Another important point is to realize that almost all antidepressants take many weeks (up to eight) to take effect.  Patience is a necessary part of the process, so do not get discouraged if you are not feeling relief from your symptoms immediately after starting the medication,” Dr. Bhatia advises. Ask your doctor how long the medication should take to kick in, and don’t give up hope before you get there.

The road to recovery from depression can be a grueling one, but it’s important to recognize that there are things out there that can remedy the mental illness. Whether or not you decide that antidepressants are right for you, know that it’s important to keep on going, even if your mental illness is telling you otherwise.