Are You Taking Antidepressants When You Aren’t Depressed?

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In this blog, we will cover the topic of taking antidepressants when you aren’t depressed and also include what research says, how antidepressants works, side effects of antidepressants, antidepressant withdrawal syndrome

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Family Counseling

Are You Taking Antidepressants When You Aren’t Depressed? Things you need to know

Antidepressants play a crucial role in treating people with depression. Doctors in the U.S prescribe antidepressants to around 250 million people every year.

Taking antidepressants without depression can have serious effects on your physical and psychological well-being, which we will be exploring further in this blog.

However, sometimes people become addicted to antidepressants. They might start taking it in grief, extreme stress, or illness. It has also become a common practice among physicians to prescribe antidepressants for various other illnesses and problems. 

But, as Dr. Jane Erb, psychiatric director of the Behavioral Health Integration in Primary Care Program at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, warns, you shouldn’t immediately start taking an antidepressant. 

“There’s no evidence that taking an antidepressant will help in the near term or that it will avoid longer-term stress effects like post-traumatic stress disorder,” she says.

What does the research say about antidepressants?

Research conducted on monkeys has found that an SSRI antidepressant can change brain architecture if taken by people who are not depressed. There’s a new reason to be careful about prescribing antidepressants to people who aren’t depressed.

For the very first time, research has revealed that non-depressed people using a commonly used antidepressant may experience minor changes in their brain structure and brain function. Sertraline is the medicine in question. In Australia, it’s most frequently known as Zoloft, but it’s also available in 16 different generic forms.

The impact of such medications on the brain’s architecture has long been a source of controversy. When taken by depressed people, the antidepressant has proved to be beneficial. 

So researchers were curious to understand what actually happens when non-depressed people consume the drug. 

They were curious because these medications are frequently prescribed for Post-traumatic stress disorder, hot flashes, bulimia, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, stroke recovery, and sexual dysfunctions. Their research found that the medications can have unintended and undesirable side effects.

Their findings, which were published in the Journal of Neuropharmacology, showed that these medications lowered the volume of two crucial brain regions. 

The anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain that controls and regulates mood, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory registration and consolidation. Depressed people had previously been shown to have smaller volumes of these two regions than non-depressed people, according to the authors.

The medicine in this study was an SSRI, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and experts suggest that other antidepressants in this class act on a similar mechanism and chemistry, and would likely have the same effect.

The majority of the two million Australians who take antidepressants are using an SSRI. anti-depressants consumption is very high in Australia. According to an OECD survey from 2013, out of 33 nations,  it was the second-largest user per capita, after Iceland.

How do antidepressants work?

To transmit impulses, nerve cells in our brain use a variety of substances. Although not all specifics are understood, doctors believe that depression is caused by an imbalance of chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) such as serotonin, which prevents signals from being correctly carried along nerves. 

Antidepressants seek to make these substances more accessible. Different medications accomplish this in different ways.

 

What are the side effects of antidepressants?

Antidepressants, like any drug, can cause side effects. Antidepressants cause adverse effects in more than half of the people who use them. They are most common in the first few weeks and become less common as time goes on. 

Some of these adverse effects are thought to be a direct result of the medication’s action on the brain, and they are quite consistent across different medications in the same class. 

Dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, restlessness, and sexual issues are just a few examples.

Whether or not someone experiences side effects will all depend on the drug, the dose, for how long have the person been consuming it.  And everyone reacts to drugs in their own unique way. If you’re taking other medications, you’re more likely to experience side effects. 

One of the medicines may exacerbate the other’s side effects. Drug interactions like this are prevalent in older adults and people with chronic conditions who are taking multiple medications. As a result, it’s critical to thoroughly explore the benefits and drawbacks of various medications with your doctor.

Common side effects of taking antidepressants include-

●  anxiety

●  bladder issues

●  constipation and impaired vision

●  Standing up causes dizziness and causes a dry mouth.

●  extreme exhaustion

●  a feeling of helplessness

●  Tremors in the hands

●  a faster heartbeat

●  a rise in sleepiness

●  muscle twitching insomnia

●  nausea

●  sexual incompatibility (inability to ejaculate or to have an orgasm)

●  tremors/vomiting

●  gaining weight

Some medication adverse effects are more common than others:

●  SSRIs are more likely to produce diarrhea, headaches, sleep disturbances, and nausea than tricyclic antidepressants.

●  Tricyclic antidepressants are more likely to induce visual difficulties, constipation, dizziness, tremors, and difficulty urinating (peeing) than SSRIs.

Tricyclic antidepressants’ adverse effects are frequently more severe than those of SSRIs and SNRIs. As a result, more people are discontinuing their use of tricyclic antidepressants: 

According to studies, around 15 out of every 100 persons who used tricyclic antidepressants did so, compared to about 10 out of every 100 people who took SSRIs. An overdose of tricyclic antidepressants also increases the risk of serious adverse effects.

In severe cases, antidepressants can cause unsteadiness and dizziness, which can lead to falls and fractures of bones, particularly in the elderly. This risk can be increased by interactions with other drugs.

While using antidepressants, a tiny number of people have experienced heart difficulties, epileptic fits, or liver damage. These are known to be uncommon antidepressant side effects. 

According to several kinds of research, youths who take SSRIs or SNRIs are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and are more likely to actually try suicide. As a result, at the start of treatment, youth should see their therapist more frequently so that any danger of suicide can be addressed early on.

Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome: What happens when you stop taking antidepressants?

It is natural to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking any type of drug. If you stop taking your antidepressant medicine suddenly, you may develop antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome is not life-threatening or harmful. It normally disappears after a week. Among the signs and symptoms are:

●  anxiety

●  feeling gloomy

●  irritability

●  fatigue

●  headaches

●  dizziness, nausea, and vomiting

If you stop taking certain antidepressants, such as paroxetine and sertraline, you’re more prone to develop antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Stopping any antidepressant medication, however, can cause problems.

To prevent the occurrence of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you. Do not consume antidepressants if you are not facing depression or if they are not suggested by your physician. 

You’re not addicted to your medicine just because you can’t stop taking it. It takes time for your body to adapt to reduced doses of drugs. That’s why your doctor might advise weaning off an antidepressant rather than discontinuing it suddenly.

Conclusion

Taking antidepressants without any cause can mess with your neurotransmitters. If you feel that you can’t get off your antidepressant then I would advise you to seek professional help.

The amount of time someone needs to take antidepressants varies greatly from person to person. Antidepressant medication for a single depression episode is usually advised for 9-12 months.

Antidepressants don’t have to be taken for the rest of your life, but if you have chronic depression (repeated episodes), you may need to take maintenance medicine indefinitely, albeit at lower doses.

You are ready to get off antidepressants if :

●  You feel that they are no longer contributing towards your good health.

●  The disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

●  The drug never really helped you to get better.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Are You Taking Antidepressants When You Aren’t Depressed? Things you need to know

What happens if you take antidepressants and you’re not depressed?

Antidepressants do not improve a person’s mood or function if they are not depressed – they are not a “happy pill.” While taking certain antidepressants, some people may experience apathy or a loss of emotions. Lowering the dose or switching to a different antidepressant may help if this happens.

Are antidepressants just for depression?

Antidepressants are most commonly used to treat clinical depression in adults. They’re also used to treat other mental health issues and long-term discomfort. Adults with moderate to severe depression are typically treated with antidepressants as the first layer of protection.

 

Do antidepressants ruin you?

The majority of people are fine on them, but a few people can get stomach bleeding, brain bleeding, and epileptic fits.

Do antidepressants shorten your life?

Research has found that antidepressants were shown to have a 33 percent higher risk of dying prematurely in the general population than those who did not use the drugs. Antidepressant users were also 14 percent more likely to experience a cardiovascular incident like a stroke or heart attack.

 

Does your brain go back to normal after antidepressants?

The recovery from acute symptoms takes far longer than the process of healing the brain. In reality, our best estimates are that it takes 6 to 9 months for your brain to fully recover cognitive function and resilience when you are no longer symptomatically depressed.

 

What does it feel like when antidepressants kick in?

Some people have moderate stomach trouble, headaches, or exhaustion when they first start taking antidepressants, but these side effects usually fade after a few weeks as the body adjusts. According to Dr. Cox, some people gain weight while others remain “weight neutral” or even lose weight.

 

What if I continue having good and bad days?

It’s possible that you’re only having a partial response to the medication. Depression is more likely to resurface if you still have symptoms.

Many people feel so much better after taking medicine that they disregard symptoms like “slight” sleep problems or energy problems.

Ignoring these symptoms, on the other hand, is a mistake. Any issue should be discussed with your doctor.

Patients can make a mood chart or a diary to keep track of their emotions. Make a list of whether you’re having a good or poor day, your depression rates, and your sleep [patterns]. This will enable you and your doctor to keep track of your progress [through the rehabilitation process].

References

Depression: How effective are antidepressants? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/

What depression can do to a brain that is not depressed https://med.unsw.edu.au/news-events/news/what-antidepressants-can-do-brain-not-depressed

Top mistakes people make it antidepressant medication https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/depression/top-mistakes-people-make-with-antidepressant-medication/

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