Depression – How to Safely Take Antidepressants
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If you have depression, your doctor may prescribe medicine to treat it. This medicine is called an antidepressant. There are many types of antidepressants. Finding the one that’s right for you can take time. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider to find it.
Path to improved health
Your healthcare provider will consider many factors when choosing an antidepressant medicine for you. They will think about the following:
- If you were depressed before and a certain antidepressant worked well, that antidepressant might be the right choice of medicine for you again.
- If any of your brothers or sisters, parents, uncles, or aunts had depression and a certain antidepressant worked well for them, that medicine might work for you too.
- The choice of an antidepressant depends on your health. If a certain antidepressant would have a bad effect on a health problem you have, that medicine wouldn’t be the right choice for you.
- Antidepressants can have side effects. The right medicine for you may be the one that gives you the fewest side effects.
- The choice of an antidepressant depends on how often you have to take it. The less often you have to take the medicine, the easier it is for you to take all the doses you need to treat your depression.
- Some antidepressants cost more than others. Your healthcare provider will choose an antidepressant that works for you and that you can afford.
- Your healthcare provider will want to choose a medicine they have experience prescribing.
- Your healthcare provider will choose an antidepressant that will help you with symptoms like sleeplessness, anxiety and lack of energy.
- If you’re taking other medicines, your healthcare provider will consider how an antidepressant will work with these other medicines.
- Some antidepressants don’t work well with certain foods. If your healthcare provider gives you one of these antidepressants, they will let you know which foods you should stop eating.
Keep in mind that antidepressant medicines aren’t tranquilizers or “uppers.” You won’t get a “high” when you take them. Also, they’re not addictive.
You’ll know if your antidepressant is working based on how you feel. You’ll be able to sleep better. You’ll have more energy to meet your day-to-day obligations. You can take care of yourself. Your appetite will be closer to normal. You’ll have an increased desire to engage in life. You and your family and friends will notice these changes. Be patient, though. It may take some time to get back to the way you felt before the depression.
It is important to remember that antidepressants can help with symptoms of depression. These medicines work best when you try to have an active lifestyle with exercise, get eight hours of sleep a night, and eat healthy foods. Your healthcare provider may also recommend working with a counselor to help you improve the thoughts of depression.
How to take antidepressants
Antidepressants are usually taken every day. It can take 1 or even 2 months to see the full results. You may need to try different kinds or amounts (dosages) to find the antidepressant that works best for you.
Your healthcare provider will let you know how long to take your antidepressant. If this is the first time you have been treated for depression, you will probably continue to take this medicine for at least 6 months after you begin to feel better. If this is the second time you’ve been depressed, you might keep taking the medicine for at least a year. Depression that comes back a third time may require you to continue taking an antidepressant for a longer time.
You can get unwanted side effects if you stop taking your antidepressant suddenly. If you want to stop taking your medicine, talk to your healthcare provider first. They can try to help you avoid these side effects.
Alcohol and antidepressants
You should be careful about drinking alcohol until you know how the medicine affects you. The effects of alcohol can combine with the effects of the antidepressant and cause problems. Regular heavy drinking can make it harder to treat the depression and certain kinds of medicine can lead to seizures for heavy drinkers. Contact your healthcare provider about drinking while taking an antidepressant.
Antidepressants and other medicines
Antidepressants can have an effect on many other medicines. If you’re going to take an antidepressant, tell your healthcare provider about all the other medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines and herbal health products (such as St. John’s wort). Ask your healthcare provider and pharmacist if any of your regular medicines can cause problems when combined with an antidepressant.
Antidepressants for children and teens
In some cases, the use of antidepressants has been linked to an increase in suicidal thoughts and suicidal behavior in children, teens and young adults. Health Canada now requires antidepressants to carry a warning about the risk of suicide in children, teens, and young adults 24 years of age or younger. However, this doesn’t mean that people in this age group should not take antidepressants. It does mean that they should be carefully monitored by their healthcare providers and loved ones while they are on an antidepressant.
Many healthcare providers will want to see a child or teen sometime in the first few weeks after starting an antidepressant to assess any risk for suicide. If you are worried that your child may be suicidal, contact your healthcare provider right away or take your child to the nearest emergency room.
Things to consider
All antidepressants have some side effects. However, not all people taking antidepressants have these side effects. Most of the side effects happen in the early weeks of therapy and lessen over time. You may experience the following:
- Bladder problems
- Blurred vision
- Dizziness when standing up
- Dry mouth
- Excessive tiredness
- Feeling of weakness
- Hand tremors
- Increased heart rate
- Increased sleepiness
- Muscle twitching
- Sexual dysfunction (inability to ejaculate or to have an orgasm)
- Weight gain
Contact your healthcare provider. They may change your dosage, or you might try another medicine to get rid of the side effects.
Considerations for women
If you’re planning to get pregnant, contact your healthcare provider about your medicines before you try to get pregnant. If you accidentally get pregnant while you’re taking an antidepressant, contact your healthcare provider right away. Your healthcare provider will know if your particular antidepressant is safe to take.
Most medicines can pass into your breast milk. That means it may be passed on to your baby. If you are planning to breastfeed or you currently breastfeed, contact your healthcare provider about your medicine.
In most cases, it’s okay to take birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy (also called HRT) at the same time as depression medicines. Taking hormones may even help some depressed women feel better. However, if your birth control pills seem to be causing symptoms of depression, discuss this with your healthcare provider. They may suggest you use another method to prevent pregnancy for several months in order to find out if your birth control pills are causing depression.
Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome
Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome can occur if you suddenly stop taking your antidepressant medicine. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome is not dangerous or life threatening and usually goes away within 1 week.
The symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness
- Nausea and vomiting
You are more likely to have a problem if you stop taking certain antidepressants, such as paroxetine and sertraline, but you can get symptoms from stopping any antidepressant medicine.
If you accidentally missed a dose of your antidepressant medicine, start taking it again as soon as possible. If you are out of medicine, contact your healthcare provider so they can refill your prescription.
If you decided to stop taking your antidepressant medicine on your own, contact your healthcare provider about why you stopped. For example, was the medicine causing an unpleasant side effect? Your healthcare provider can help by altering your dosage or suggesting another type of antidepressant.
If your healthcare provider recommended that you take a lower dosage of your medicine and you are experiencing symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, contact your healthcare provider. You may need to take a higher dosage for a period of time before weaning your body from the medicine completely.
To keep antidepressant discontinuation syndrome from happening again, take your medicine exactly as your healthcare provider tells you. If you want to stop taking your medicine, contact your healthcare provider first. Just because you are unable to stop taking your medicine all at once does not mean that you are addicted. Your body often needs time to adjust to lower levels of the medicine. This is why your healthcare provider may recommend tapering off of antidepressant medicine rather than abruptly stopping it.
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