Today we are talking about the side effects of antidepressants. A couple of weeks ago with kicked of this antidepressant series with an article about antidepressants in general and all you need to know. If you haven’t read it already you can find it here! Today we’re honing in on the side effects of antidepressants both physically and mentally.
Side effects of antidepressants
You may find that the medication you’re on is making you feel a hundred times worse, where a friend of yours may be living their best life. This exact thing actually happened to me. My friend was suffering from depression, and I was suffering from anxiety. We were on the same drug but different doses. Side effects had me feeling so dizzy and nauseous, I could barely get out of bed. I spoke to my Dr., changed medication, and the difference has been like night and day.
Side effects can range from being annoying to being debilitating, to not even existing at all. They can last until your body has gotten used to the new substance, or for the entire time you’re on the medication. But by tinkering with the dose, or even changing the medication itself, you can find something that works for you.
Having said that, let’s dive into what you came here for. In this article, I’m going to talk about the physical side effects and social side effects. Now ‘social side effects is something that I’m tackling based on my experience. It’s not really talked about socially, but it is a huge factor when considering treatment adherence.
Physical side effects
As mentioned in Antidepressants Part one, there are some possible side effects that come with antidepressants. Some of these can include
- increased anxiety or feelings of depression (only in the first few weeks)
- feeling sick
- weight gain or weight loss
- gastrointestinal issues
- low libido
- vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction
It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone will get side effects, and even if they are present, they are usually at varying degrees. It also matters which antidepressant you are on, what the dose is, and how intense your symptoms are. There are many more different factors that come into play, but for the most part, it comes down to individual differences.
Social side effects
Yes, it is 2021, but stigma is still very much alive and well. You may feel comfortable being on medication, but your social circle may not. The thing is, you should feel comfortable for undergoing treatment! You’re taking the steps necessary to heal and better your life. I can sit here and tell you that it doesn’t matter what others around you say, and while that’s true, sometimes it can get to you. I am less than proud to admit that I often “played down” how bad I was feeling, or how much I felt the medication was working for me simply because I didn’t want to hear the same, tired response of “you’re so young, what do you have to be anxious about? Throw those pills away they’re doing more harm than good.” etc. etc.
These outdated phrases may come from good intentions but they carry a busload more of stigma and misinformation. The trouble with stigma is that there is an element of fear that surrounds it. And that fear may not even be yours, yet it may be projected onto you.
(This is where therapy comes in and is useful, especially in combination with medication)
My advice? Consult doctors, psychiatrists, mental health professionals and ask them for their expert opinion. Ask them for some resources that can help you better understand how antidepressants can be helpful for you.
Explaining certain behaviours
If I had a penny for every time someone asked me why I’m not drinking, tried to get me to drink, or anything else of that sort, well I’d be rich. The general advice is when you’re taking antidepressants it’s best not to consume alcohol. This of course varies based on many factors, but drinking while on medication can sometimes make symptoms and side effects worse. I limited my alcohol intake to one drink on weekends but eventually chose to cut it out altogether. I feel better now, but the transition of having to explain to people why I’m no longer drinking was long and arduous. It can be easy to succumb to the pressure but the truth is, you don’t really owe anyone anything. You share what information you want to share and set your own boundaries.
Speaking of boundaries…
Now is a good a time as any to strengthen and reinforce yours. Whether it’s physical side effects or symptoms of depression or anxiety, you may not feel up to certain things anymore. I’m here to tell you it’s completely ok. Recovery, treatment, healing; it’s all a process, and you have to figure out what works best. This may show up as not feeling comfortable to go out, not going to sleepovers, going to specific places, seeing specific people, eating certain foods etc. Whatever it may be, you know better than anyone where you are internally and how much you can handle. Choose to do what feels better for you, because health comes first, before any other priority.
The reason for bringing up these ‘social side effects’ is because sometimes we can feel a bit scared or self-conscious when it comes to taking antidepressants, and this can lead to us stopping it altogether. Unfortunately, this happens more often than you’d think. With the conversation surrounding mental health opening up, there are small pieces of stigma being chipped off. And hopefully one day we can get to a place where there is compassion and understanding regardless. Until then though, prioritise yourself and your health, and if it works for you that’s all that matters.
*Please consult a health professional before making any decisions about antidepressants or other medication. They can provide a more personalised explanation as to how treatment can work.