This blog post will help you understand about taking antidepressants when you aren’t depressed and focuses on the subjects like the side effects of antidepressant use, how antidepressants affect the brain that is not depressed, types of antidepressants and their side effects, factors deciding the intake of antidepressants, vulnerable factors, risks and challenges of antidepressants, and tips to cope with the side effects of antidepressants and guidelines for stopping antidepressants safely.
Taking Antidepressants when you aren’t depressed
Taking antidepressants when you aren’t depressed can have side effects. Antidepressants are basically known for treating depression and other mental health disorders. They aim at:
- Relieving symptoms
- Preventing the return of depression
Following are some common side effects of taking antidepressants when you aren’t depressed:
|Dizziness and unsteadiness|
|restlessness and sexual problems|
The risk may be increased by interactions with other drugs. When taking antidepressants, a very small number of people have had heart attacks, epileptic fits or liver harm. These are known to be rare side effects of antidepressants.
How antidepressants affect brain that is not depressed?
When antidepressants are taken by those who are not depressed, subtle changes in brain’s structure and function have been observed in a research study. Sertraline commonly known as Zoloft is a most commonly used drug. These drugs showed advantageous effects in depressed people. Researchers revealed that these drugs can have unexpected and unwanted effects on brain that is not depressed.
Results published in the journal Neuropharmacology, revealed that the antidepressants decreased the volume of two vital areas of the brain. The anterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain that controls and regulates mood was affected. The other part was the hippocampus which stores memory. It was observed that depressed people have previously been shown to have smaller volumes of these two regions as compared to non-depressed people.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRIs was utilized in this research and experts say other drugs in this class pose the same effect.
Types of antidepressants and their side effects
Some of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants are:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Atypical antidepressants
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) include drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil, are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. This drug acts on the neurotransmitter serotonin, a brain chemical that helps to control mood.
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) work on the chemical norepinephrine as well as serotonin in the brain, as the name implies. They include Pristiq, Cymbalta, Fetzima, and Effexor medications, and can also be used to treat pain-accompanied anxiety and depression.
Atypical antidepressants (Wellbutrin, Remeron, Desyrel, Serzone, Viibryd, and Trintellix) do not fit into other antidepressant classes, but target multiple neurotransmitters to alter the chemistry of the brain and regulate mood.
Esketamine (brand name Spravato), is used as a nasal spray in combination with an oral antidepressant. It can rapidly improve symptoms in some patients with severe depression.
TCAs and MAOIs
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), the older depression drugs, are prescribed when all other medications and therapies have failed and they are considered as a last resort.
Side effects of antidepressants
All antidepressants produce side effects that are common. Sometimes the side effects get severe enough for certain individuals to make them avoid taking the drug.
|Antidepressants||Possible side effects|
|SSRIs and SNRIs||NauseaInsomniaAnxietyRestlessnessReduced sex driveDizzinessWeight gainTremorsExcessive sweatingLethargy or fatigueDry mouthDiarrheaConstipationHeadachesRaised blood pressureLiver problems|
|Atypical antidepressants||NauseaFatigueweight gainsleepinessnervousness dry mouth blurred vision|
|Esketamine||dissociationchanges in speech and behavioranxietysuicidal thoughts|
|Older depression drugs||Severe side effects|
Factors deciding whether to take antidepressants or not
Antidepressants should be used after the diagnosis is correct. Sometimes people are given antidepressants unnecessarily. A lot of people are using antidepressants these days even if they have milder symptoms.
It is important to consider when antidepressants should be taken keeping in view their adverse side effects. Some of the aspects/factors can help in deciding whether to take antidepressants or not. These are as following:
- Are you or are you planning to undergo psychotherapy?
- Have you ever taken antidepressants and have they helped?
- How bad do you think the potential side effects are relative to the possible advantages?
Following individuals are at higher risk when they take antidepressants:
- People over 65 may suffer from increase the risk for falls, fractures, and bone loss in older adults.
- Use of some antidepressants late in pregnancy may cause typical symptoms in newborns after delivery like tremor, restlessness, mild respiratory problems, and weak cry
- children and young adults can suffer from an increased risk of suicide
- People with bipolar disorder can suffer from manic episodes because of antidepressants
Risk and challenges of antidepressants
It is not so simple to take a pill whenever you want as antidepressant is not an occasional medication. Antidepressants have potential risks and challenges that a person can experience. Here are some of them:
- Antidepressants are not always effective for mild cases.
- Outcomes of antidepressants are time taking. They may take few days or even weeks.
- The dosage of antidepressants may need to be adjusted and it takes few month to get right.
- It is tricky to stop taking an antidepressant as it causes withdrawal symptoms such as increased depression, fatigue, irritability, diarrhea, insomnia, dizziness, or flu-like symptoms.
Myths and facts about antidepressants
- Myths: Antidepressants will affect my sex life.
Fact: Sex may have an effect on certain antidepressants. Generally, the problem is that you have an orgasm rather than a lack of desire. But since depression itself reduces libido, the sex life can be improved by a drug that eases depression. As with other side effects, it may be more likely that such antidepressants may cause sexual problems than others.
- Myths: Antidepressants are costly and insurance does not cover them.
Fact: Antidepressants are generally protected by prescription drug coverage insurance policies. Depending on the dose, the medication you are taking, and if it is available as a generic, the cost of antidepressants differs greatly. And without insurance coverage, a generic antidepressant can be purchased for as little as $4 per month.
- Myth: It is a sign of weakness to take an antidepressant.
Fact: Like medical problems like diabetes or high cholesterol, a disease that also responds to medication is major depression. When depression interferes with the ability to work normally, it is not a sign of weakness to seek help. It is an example of good self-care.
- Myth: The risk of suicide is increased by antidepressants.
Fact: Studies in recent years have raised concerns that antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors (but not deaths) among children, adolescents, and young adults. A 2009 study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), for example, looked at 372 studies involving almost 100,000 individuals taking antidepressants. Antidepressants were found to be associated with a marginally higher risk of suicidal thoughts in some children and young adults compared with placebo, to have little effect on the risk of suicide in those aged 25 to 64, and to decrease the risk in those aged 65 and older.
The FDA mandated antidepressant manufacturers to update their labels in 2004 to include a boxed warning statement about these risks.
A different image is painted by other research. A 2006 research published in PLoS Medicine indicates that thousands of lives have been saved by antidepressants. Data indicate that for 15 years before the famous antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) was sold, the U.S. suicide rate remained reasonably constant and then decreased gradually over 14 years, as Prozac sales grew. Among females, the largest influence was.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Tips to cope with the side effects of antidepressants
The more you know about your antidepressant, the better you’ll be prepared to deal with side effects, prevent harmful drug reactions, and mitigate other safety issues. Some suggestions:
- Don’t start or stop taking antidepressants without the doctor’s prescription
- When SSRIs or SNRIs are taken with blood thinners, prescription painkillers, or antihistamines found in many over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines and sleep aids, adverse drug interactions can occur. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist before combining antidepressants with other medications.
- Keep monitoring side-effects. Keep track of any physical and emotional changes that you are experiencing and chat about them with your doctor. If your depression worsens or you experience a rise in suicidal thoughts, contact your physician or therapist immediately. On a regular basis, see the doctor.
- It’s a trial and error process to find the correct medication and dose. So be patient. Antidepressant drugs take about four to six weeks to achieve their maximum therapeutic effect. Until finding one that helps, several individuals try many drugs.
- Self-care and lifestyle improvements will also decrease the underlying causes of depression as you are able to come off medications to prevent it from returning.
Guidelines for stopping antidepressants safely
Following are some of the guidelines which should be considered for stopping antidepressants safely:
- Lower the dosage steadily. Never quit the medicine “cold turkey” in order to reduce antidepressant withdrawal symptoms. Instead, progressively decrease the dose (many experts recommend decreasing in increments of 10 percent), allowing for at least two to six weeks or longer for each decrease in dosage.
- Don’t precipitate the operation. The phase of antidepressant tapering can take several months to years and should only be attempted under the supervision of a physician. Patiently be. Consider spending more time at your current dosage before undertaking any more reductions if you encounter complications at any time.
- Pick a time that is not too stressful to pause. It can be difficult to remove antidepressants.
This blog post addressed the topic, “Taking Antidepressants when you aren’t depressed’’. We understood that the article outlined the potential side effects of antidepressants in detail and effects of antidepressants on a brain that is not depressed and other related facts about antidepressants. This article also guided how to stop using antidepressants safely.
What we recommend for Depression
If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Taking Antidepressants when you aren’t depressed
Can you be sad on antidepressants?
If an individual who is not depressed takes antidepressants, they do not improve the mood or functioning of that person – it is not a “happy pill.”) Rarely, when on such antidepressants, people experience apathy or lack of emotions.
Is it normal for antidepressants to stop working?
You are not alone if you feel like your antidepressant has stopped working. It is normal for a drug that once worked wonders to become ineffective, especially if it has been taken for a long time.
What happens if you take one antidepressant?
Patients taking antidepressants are commonly believed to need to take the drug for about 4-6 weeks until they experience some improvement in depressive symptoms, although a recent study claims that a single dose may cause major brain changes within hours.
Is it normal to have bad days on antidepressants?
A partial response to the drug can occur. If you have residual symptoms, there is a greater risk of the depression returning. Many individuals feel so much better with treatment that they ignore symptoms such as only having a “little” sleeping problem or a “little” energy problem.
Can antidepressants cause personality changes?
Antidepressants will not affect your disposition when administered appropriately. Individuals rarely experience apathy or lack of feelings when taking such antidepressants. Lowering the dose or switching to a different antidepressant can help when this happens.
What are long term effects of antidepressants?
Sexual problems, weight gain, emotional numbness, reduced positive feeling, feeling as if they’re addicted, caring less about other people and suicidal risks.
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Margo, J., 2015. What Antidepressants Can Do To A Brain That Is Not Depressed | Medicine – UNSW Sydney. [online] Med.unsw.edu.au. Available at: <https://med.unsw.edu.au/news-events/news/what-antidepressants-can-dobrainnotdepressed#:~:text=There%20is%20new%20reason%20to,The%20drug%20is%20sertraline.> [Accessed 5 January 2021].
M. (2020). Antidepressant Medication – HelpGuide.org. HelpGuide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/antidepressant-medication.htm