Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed mental health medications. As per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2015 to 2018, 13.2% of adults used antidepressants, and the use among women was 17.7%, then the use in men was 8.4%.
Irrespective of how commonly these medications are used, there are dangers of antidepressants that most individuals aren't aware of.
In this blog, you will come across the effects of antidepressants and how to manage them.
Antidepressants are prescribed mental health medications used to treat the symptoms of depressive disorders, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and various other mental health conditions. Commonly used depression medications like Lexapro, Prozac, and Celexa realign the chemical imbalance of brain neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine that control an individual's emotions and moods. These medicines help reset the post and presynaptic concentration among these three brain neurotransmitters to regulate mood.
Commonly used depression medications include:
● Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): are one of the most effective depression medications. These block the ability of the brain to absorb serotonin. Which stabilises one's mood as the brain cells can now easily relay messages from one to the other.
● Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): used in major depressive and anxiety disorder treatment, symptoms of fibromyalgia, menopause, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This medication increases the norepinephrine and serotonin levels responsible for regulating mood.
● Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): this medication is used to treat depression, some types of anxiety disorder, and fibromyalgia.
● Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are used as an introductory medication for individuals before taking SSRIs or SNRIs. They prevent the breakdown of serotonin by working on a brain enzyme called monoamine oxidase. The work on this medication is based on the theory that less breakdown of serotonin leads to improved mood.
Not every individual responds well to antidepressants. There are several other treatment options available to deal with depression effectively. At SimranShri Rehabilitation Centre, the mental health doctors address every aspect of a disorder that an individual is struggling with to help them develop healthy coping skills.
Now that you know what antidepressants are, it is essential to know how they work. This will help you understand the dangers of antidepressants better.
Antidepressants act on some parts of the neurotransmitters, these work as chemical messengers that travel through neurons and are released through the presynaptic terminal from the end of neurons. The gap in which these neurotransmitters are released is known as the synaptic cleft; the next postsynaptic neurons receptor takes it up. This is the modus operandi of chemicals travelling in the brain and influencing one's behaviour and mood.
Antidepressants influence three main neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
Serotonin plays a role in happy feelings, regulating mood, appetite, rewards, and sleep. Dopamine works on how one experiences pleasure, arousal, motivation, and decision-making. At the same time, norepinephrine plays a key role in regulating cognition, blood pressure, heart rate, alertness, and motivation during stressful times.
There are different types of antidepressants, and each affects the neurotransmitters differently.
Antidepressants are administered long-term as anxiety, and major depressive disorders cannot be treated overnight. Individuals experience the dangers of antidepressants on long-term use of these medicines. As discussed above, every neurotransmitter plays a specific role, and unwanted side effects are experienced if the release of absorption is tweaked. The long term dangers of antidepressants include:
● Decreased libido
● High chances of internal bleeding
● Inability to feel emotions
● Problems with sexual performance
● Blood clots
● High blood sugar levels
● Weight gain
● Suicidal thoughts or behaviour
● Tachyphylaxis (sudden decrease in drug response)
Another problem individuals face with long-term depression medications is that they experience withdrawals, also called antidepressants discontinuation syndrome, after stopping the medication usage. This is similar to drug dependence when individuals start feeling physical and emotional unpleasant symptoms known as withdrawals when they refrain from drug use. These symptoms include insomnia, blurred vision, flu-like symptoms, difficulty concentrating, and random fits of crying.
SSRIs are considered the safest type of antidepressant and are best to be taken for long-term use.
The risks of long-term antidepressant use discussed above occur in a few people, and mental health medications should disclose their side effects.
The following ways can help avoid the effects of long-term antidepressant usage:
● Check with a mental health doctor at regular intervals (preferable biannual) to assess the optimum functioning of the medications or to alter the dosage if required.
● If you wish to stop using antidepressants, discuss it with your doctor and gradually taper or stop the usage. Slowly withdrawing from the medicines can help with reducing the symptoms and prevent depression from relapsing.
● Combine counselling therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapies along with antidepressants. One can work on their behavioural problems and patterns that result in mental health disorders.
● Carefully observe any changes in symptoms, such as sleeping issues. Reporting these changes early to a mental health professional can help make the required alterations in the dosage.
● If you feel that the medications aren't working well, it is advisable to visit a mental health professional. They can assist you by changing the medications, increasing the dosage, or adding lifestyle modifications.
● If one tends to gain weight or starts facing diabetes or blood sugar issues, they should add regular physical exercise and dietary modifications to their lifestyle. These changes can be a result of antidepressants.
Lastly, it is unsaid that one should refrain from self-medication. If you or your loved ones suffer from mood or anxiety disorders, you should immediately connect with a mental health professional. Our mental health counsellors are just a call away; they can guide you with the best practices and treatment options to help you recover.