What Antidepressants Can and Cannot Do For You


To help with severe or stubborn depressive symptoms, doctors and therapists sometimes recommend clients take an antidepressant.

Taking medication is a matter of client choice, and that choice is sometimes difficult to make. We all want to feel good, but medications carry the risk of side effects—a cause for concern.

However, some hopes and concerns people have about using antidepressants turn out to be misperceptions.

Four Common Antidepressant Misperceptions

1. I’ll start on an antidepressant and feel better in a few days.

People begin feeling the effects of an antidepressant about two to six weeks after starting it. However, every person’s body responds to an antidepressant differently, and not all antidepressants work for everybody.

After taking an antidepressant for eight weeks you and your doctor may realize it is not helping you, or that the medication helps but causes uncomfortable side effects you cannot put up with.

Some individuals are fortunate enough to have success with the first medication they try. Other people go through a lengthy process of trial and error to find an antidepressant that works for them.

2. Depression is cured with antidepressants.

Antidepressants reduce depressive symptoms but are not a cure for depression. Some people enjoy enormous symptom relief with medication while others notice minor to moderate improvement. For those with severe depression, any amount of relief is typically welcome.

Because antidepressants are not a cure, it is usually recommended people taking them also engage in counseling. Those who use antidepressants as their only means of treatment must either stay on the medication indefinitely for relief, or face discontinuing it without working through their depression’s underlying issues.

3. Taking an antidepressant will alter my personality.

Antidepressants do not have a Jekyll and Hyde effect on people. It may seem that someone on medication has become more social, more productive, and maybe even nicer. However, what people taking antidepressants say is that they feel more like themselves.

When the wet blanket of depressive symptoms is lifted, individuals can express themselves more freely and energetically.

4. If I start on an antidepressant I will be on it for the rest of my life.

Therapists help their clients work through issues that trigger symptoms of depression, and teach clients new skills for managing relationships, emotions, and thoughts. People can then manage life more effectively and with increased resilience—which may eventually reduce or eliminate the need for antidepressant help.

Photo credit: Chelsea Gomez


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